Man on trial in fatal car-pedestrian collision

Man on trial in fatal car-pedestrian collision

URBANA — A Champaign man admitted to police he was feeling the effects of cognac at the time he hit a University of Illinois student crossing a busy Urbana street last year.

Albert Fleming, 21, of the 1500 block of Williamsburg Drive, is being tried by a Champaign County jury this week for aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with the Oct. 13 death of Anthony Pauls, 22.

Mr. Pauls was a fourth-year student in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Testimony at Fleming's trial, which began Monday before Judge John Kennedy, was that Mr. Pauls was crossing University Avenue near Lake Street, just east of Carle Hospital, when he was hit by a car. Mr. Pauls was crossing from north to south just before midnight on Oct. 12. He was pronounced dead at Carle about eight hours later.

Minutes after the collision, Fleming was stopped not far away with a broken windshield. He initially told Urbana police he had hit a tree branch.

On Wednesday, investigator Dave Smysor, who specializes in investigating serious traffic accidents, testified that from his observations of the scene, it appeared that Mr. Pauls' body landed about 43 feet from where he may have been initially struck. His right shoe was found in the southernmost eastbound lane of University, Smysor said. The other shoe was about 100 feet away from that one.

As Smysor pulled the worn New Balance athletic shoes, one at a time, from evidence bags, Mr. Pauls' mother wept quietly in the gallery, an act noticed by several of the seven women and five men hearing the case.

The courtroom was filled with several supporters of both Fleming and Mr. Pauls.

Jurors watched portions of a videotaped statement that Fleming gave to Smysor and Officer Matt Mecum about two hours after the collision.

In it, Fleming admitted that he had been drinking Hennessy cognac before driving around. He said he had been drinking with his cousin, who was in the front passenger seat. Fleming estimated he had consumed about a half pint and admitted that he was feeling "under the influence" at the time of the crash.

Fleming told the officers Mr. Pauls was running across the street as Fleming headed east. He said he and his cousin and another man in the back seat were just talking and having a few laughs when the car collided with Mr. Pauls at the front on the driver's side.

Asked why he didn't stop right away, Fleming said he intended to turn around and go back. He was northbound on Vine at Five Points when a police officer noted his broken windshield. The officer then watched as Fleming went west on University Avenue, north on Broadway Avenue and West on Park Street.

When he was stopped by police there, he told them a tree branch had shattered his windshield.

Asked by Mecum why he told the officer that, Fleming replied: "Fear."

His trial was expected to continue Thursday and go to the jury Friday.

If convicted, he faces between four and 15 years in prison on the leaving the scene of an accident involving death charge and three to 14 years in prison on the aggravated DUI.

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