Man charged with felony DUI in crash

URBANA — A Rantoul man involved in a crash that seriously injured an off-duty Champaign firefighter has been charged with felony driving under the influence.

Garrett W. Paquin, 33, of the 1500 block of Banyan Drive, was arraigned Friday on a Class 4 felony charge of aggravated DUI, alleging that his drinking on Sept. 25 led to a collision that caused great bodily harm to Jeffrey Ballew.

Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dornik said the 53-year-old Ballew remains in a rehabilitation unit at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where he's been since the collision about 10 p.m. that day.

Dornik said Paquin was driving his pickup truck south on County Road 800 E when he stopped at County Road 1000 N, also referred to as the Monticello Road, and saw a westbound motorcyclist, later identified as Ballew. Dornik said Paquin thought Ballew was signaling a right turn and continued south through the intersection. Ballew's motorcycle crashed into front fender of Paquin's pickup truck.

Dornik said Paquin had red eyes and admitted to Champaign County sheriff's deputies that he had been drinking beer that night. He had "indicators of impairment" on field sobriety tests, she said, and made several comments about not seeing the victim.

Paquin was taken to Carle Hospital for a blood draw but Dornik said she has not received the results from the state crime lab.

In a motion filed with the court asking that a felony bond be set for Paquin, Dornik said Ballew sustained a shattered lower leg, punctured right lung, and four broken ribs. He also suffered mini-strokes as a result of a blood clot and had to be on a ventilator for about two weeks. She said Ballew was only recently moved to a rehabilitation unit.

Over the objection of defense attorney Brett Olmstead of Urbana, Judge Tom Difanis set bond at $25,000.

Olmstead noted that Paquin was the one who called 911 for help, had cooperated with authorities, and came to court Friday knowing that a more serious felony charge was being lodged again him. He was initially charged with misdemeanor DUI, Olmstead also argued that Paquin has a job, is not a flight risk and that the results of the chemical tests are incomplete.

In addition to setting a bond as requested by Dornik, Difanis also ordered Paquin to wear an alcohol monitoring device should he post the $2,500 cash bond to be released from jail.

Difanis set Paquin's next court date for Jan. 3.

If convicted of the felony DUI, he faces penalties ranging from probation to one to 12 years in prison.

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