Urbana city official sentenced for DUI

URBANA — A Champaign County judge Friday sentenced the chief of staff to Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing to 18 months of court supervision for driving under the influence of alcohol almost a year ago.

The sentence for Michael Monson, 56, means a conviction will not enter on his record if he successfully completes the period of supervision without any further problems.

"I had no business getting behind the wheel," said a contrite Monson. "I have tried to deal with this as a wake-up call."

Urbana police arrested Monson for DUI on the evening of March 5 at his apartment after learning he was involved in a minor fender-bender with a Champaign woman who caused the accident on a snow-covered street not far from Monson's home in the 1000 block of Kerr Avenue.

Monson got out of his car, left it in the 1000 block of Carroll Avenue and walked home. He submitted to testing and was found to have a blood-alcohol content of 0.11 percent, according to Assistant State's Attorney A.J. Ruggieri.

Monson pleaded guilty to the Class A misdemeanor in November. His attorney, Brett Olmstead of Urbana, argued to Judge Richard Klaus that Monson's case was "an ideal situation" for court supervision, noting his lack of prior criminal history and his change of behavior since the arrest. Ruggieri made no recommendation.

Prussing, Urbana city council member Charlie Smyth, former city council member Esther Patt, Urbana Human Resources Manager Vacellia Clark, and a fitness trainer all wrote letters of support for Monson, telling the judge that he had learned from his error in judgment.

Addressing Klaus, Monson apologized to his sons, the Urbana Police Department, his co-workers, his boss and the citizens of Urbana. He said he no longer goes to bars or drinks beer, has engaged in a healthier lifestyle, and finds himself thinking clearer and being more honest with people.

He also said he was "well aware" of the consequences of a repeat offense.

"By nature, I tend to be a risk-averse person and I tell you this is not going to happen again," said Monson.

Klaus told Monson that in the nine years he's been a judge, the Legislature has repeatedly increased the penalties for repeat DUI offenders and warned that in Champaign County, they are treated "pretty harshly."

Monson is a former reporter for The News-Gazette who went to work for Prussing in 2009. As chief of staff, he earns $78,000 a year.

As part of his sentence, Klaus ordered Monson to pay fines of about $1,255, attend a victim impact panel, and perform 100 hours of public service. Olmstead said Monson had already begun the public service.

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drmedic wrote on January 12, 2014 at 12:01 am

Two different legal systems, one for the poor and politically unconnected, and the others for the friends and minions of the media and politicians. Sad. He could have killed someone. It should be on his record and he should lose his licence like all other DUI offenders.

John Doe wrote on January 15, 2014 at 9:01 am

I think what is really sad is that we did not punish the driver more severely of the car that caused the accident.  I am not sure what factors were present at the time, but she was the one ticketed for actually having a problem navigating the vehicle.  I don't think it is an unequal justice system.  He has been successful to this point in life, probably had some money saved, was able to hire a good lawyer.  The opportunity exists for everyone.  First time offense, no prior criminal history, accident was not his fault.......he admitted he was wrong for walking away and driving after drinking....he has to say that, but I bet he would love to say that I had a few drinks, was no threat while driving home, and someone hit me.  I got nervous and made a bad decision to leave the scene....that is what I am guilty of.  Just think of how different this story would be perceived if he had not been drinking and the student was texting while driving.  None of us would even know about it because it would not have made the news, yet the results would be the same.  Justice is not equal, just for different reasons in my opinion.