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.