Judge rejects plea in reckless homicide case

Judge rejects plea in reckless homicide case

URBANA — A Champaign County judge Friday dashed a Philo woman's hope of escaping a prison sentence for causing her cousin's death in a drunken driving incident last fall.

In a rarely made judicial move, Champaign County Judge Richard Klaus refused to accept Katheryn Daly's guilty plea to reckless homicide for killing Annie Daly, 19, of Philo, in an all-terrain vehicle accident near the Daly family home south of Philo on Oct. 6.

In the offer that State's Attorney Julia Rietz and Champaign attorney Mark Lipton presented to Klaus, Daly, 24, would have been sentenced to 30 months of probation, six months of electronic home detention, and a $1,000 fine. In exchange for the plea, two more serious counts of aggravated driving under the influence would have been dismissed.

Asked if Annie Daly's parents endorsed that resolution for their niece, Rietz said, "The proposed resolution was made in part based on my conversations with Annie's parents."

The penalties for aggravated driving under the influence range from probation to three to 14 years in prison. It was the language of the statute governing the sentence for that Class 2 felony which was obviously eating at Klaus.

"You cannot ignore the public policy embedded in the statute for which she is charged in count one (aggravated DUI)," Klaus told the attorneys Friday.

"Public policy and the law that's embedded in the statute indicates that unless the court determines that extraordinary circumstances exist that require probation, the defendant shall be sentenced to serve a period of incarceration in the Illinois Department of Corrections between three and 14 years. The court does not concur with this sentence," he said.

Klaus then set the case for trial for March 31, sending the attorneys to renegotiate a deal with a harsher sentence or prepare for trial and the bewildered Daly into the arms of her weeping family, who had been watching from the gallery.

The courtroom drama actually started Thursday afternoon when Lipton and Rietz told the judge they had reached a plea agreement but wanted another date to present it to him.

A clearly agitated Klaus said Thursday he would only accept a plea to an open sentence — meaning he would sentence Daly at a later date — or set the case for trial that day.

"I expect the parties to be ready," Klaus said, reminding Lipton that he had told him at the last two monthly pretrial conferences in February and January that the case had to be resolved Thursday or set for trial.

"It's six months old. I gave you fair warning," Klaus told Lipton, who tried unsuccessfully to explain his position.

Moments later, Rietz told the judge that Annie Daly's family wanted to be able to read a victim impact statement at the time of the plea but weren't prepared to do it on Thursday because they hadn't written anything out.

Klaus then suggested that they could make an oral statement but Rietz reiterated they were not prepared.

Klaus then continued the case until 9 a.m. Friday.

After the Thursday hearing, Lipton sent the judge a packet about an inch thick. It had 128 reference letters from family, friends and professional colleagues of the Carle emergency room nurse, pleading for leniency for the single mother of a 20-month-old son.

But on Friday, Klaus told the attorneys he hadn't read them because they were labeled as mitigation and the "law does not allow for mitigation documents or a victim impact statement for a plea" but only at sentencing after a conviction has been entered.

"This is not a sentencing in any way, shape or form," he said prior to the attorneys presenting the reckless homicide offer.

Rietz had added the reckless homicide count after Thursday's hearing. It alleged Daly acted in a "reckless manner" by performing an act "likely to cause death or great bodily harm." A sentence for reckless homicide does not require the judge to find “extraordinary circumstances” exist for a sentence of probation.

Laying out the facts for Klaus, she said that on Oct. 6 about 3 a.m., Katheryn Daly was driving a John Deere Gator around the perimeter of the family's property with her cousin in the front seat and three people in the back. They had been at a bonfire and were headed home when she turned from County Road 1700 E on to 600 N and skidded over wet gravel.

The Gator tipped over and Annie Daly fell out. None of the occupants was wearing a seatbelt. Katheryn Daley did CPR on her cousin until emergency responders arrived and took her to Carle Foundation Hospital, where she died at 6:24 a.m.

Katheryn Daly admitted that she had been drinking alcohol prior to the accident, Rietz said.

Although Rietz didn't state it Friday, at an earlier court hearing it was revealed that Daly's blood alcohol content was 0.13 percent, well over the 0.08 percent for a motorist to be presumed intoxicated under Illinois law. Katheryn Daly is a petite woman weighing 96 pounds.

Although it does happen from time to time, judges rarely reject guilty plea agreements. When they do, some choose to transfer the case to another judge. Klaus did not do that.

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Jsmith68 wrote on March 21, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Always a good sign when the presiding State's Attorney is not familiar with the law or the process..........nice.  

russ1952 wrote on March 26, 2014 at 9:03 am

Sounds to me like the only adult in the room was the judge. What this states attorney is trying to do defies logic. She could at least pretend to run an unbiased prosecution. Just because the accident occured on a taxpayer subsidized farm toy and it was a sweet young lady involved does not mean justice and fairness has to suffer. The states attorney should try and explain the logic behind this deal to the guy that got 11 years for not being impaired when his when his motorcycle collided with and killed his friend. 

ShilohFan wrote on March 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

I think it sounds like the judge is on a witch-hunt.  This family has suffered enough from the ACCIDENT.  I think it's an outrage and the judge is clearly looking for tough-guy publicity.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on March 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm
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The odd thing — as far as I can tell,  from the way the facts are presented here — is that the judge seems to be insisting on a sentence applicable to a crime for which the defendant has not been convicted.


If she pleads to a reckless homicide charge, and if that's the charge ultimately presented by The People; then why would Klaus insist on imposing the penalty for arson, or burglary, or any other offense which is not charged by The People?



sparkyfly wrote on March 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

It seems odd that the jugde would throw out something that the State's Attorney and Defense have agreed upon.  What is the state to do if the family of the deceased doesn't want to prosecute.  There is a difference between following the law and purposely setting an expample...

Haven't these two families been through enough?  

Candor wrote on March 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Any time someone chooses to drink and drive and death results from that decision a tragedy occurs, it doesn't change the legal culpability or the penalty ranges for the crime.  Just because it's tragic and the family doesn't want her to go to jail doesn't make it unfair or a witchhunt.  Look at the stats for all deadly DUI's that have happened in Champaign County for the past 10 years, doubt you'll find any that didn't result in a prison sentence. 

jimmy61821 wrote on March 21, 2014 at 6:03 pm

First of all, I do not believe the public needs to be protected from this lady to the point that she needs to go to prison.  Having said that, the outrage over the Judge rejecting the plea is laughable. I don't remember the State's Attorney being remotely as lenient to the young man who hit and killed the drunk pedestrian who walked out in front of him.   Granted the young man had been drinking and fled the scene and chose to go to trial, but did he deserve 14 years in prison? Had he not had a drop of alcohol the outcome would have been the same.  The drunk pedestrian would have been killed.  Did Ms. Rietz offer him probation with county time?  I am willing to bet she did not.

I also don't recall reading anything about the State's Attorney being so merciful in the case of the motorcyclist who wrecked into his buddy who was also riding.  The man was not impaired or high at the time but had cocaine metabolites in his system.  Did Ms. Rietz offer him probation with county time?  I am also willing to bet she did not.

The point is you are either firm across the board, or lenient across the board and the problem is her office is all over the place.

As an aside it is interesting that the defense attorney in this case is the same defense attorney that somehow was able to get the former U of I band director conditional discharge (unsupervised probation folks) for stealing tens of thousands of dollars in instruments from the U of I.   Find me another defendant who stole 5 or 10 K who is not on supervised probation.  Once again, different standards. But I digress.





ROB McCOLLEY wrote on March 21, 2014 at 10:03 pm
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The point is you are either firm across the board, or lenient across the board and the problem is her office is all over the place.

You're exactly wrong.


Ideology of any kind is a substitute for ideas, and hard work.  The goal is not to be liberal or firm, conservative or lenient; it's to do justice, to get things right, employing the system to produce the best possible outcome.

jimmy61821 wrote on March 21, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Dear Mr. McColley:

You're exactly right.  And perhaps you understood the meaning behind my post. However, if you did not, I would encourage you and anyone else to come to court and watch justice in action.  To further illustrate my point, I would suggest attending the so-called "second chance" court hearings.  The next one is scheduled for April 3 at 2:30 p.m. in courtroom F.  Sit and watch all of the private attorney clients who will be entering pleas of guilty during the second chance date.  Then watch all of the public defender clients who plead guilty that day.  Every single private attorney client will have a court supervision disposition.  Maybe one of the public defender clients will be so lucky.  I would encourage you to attend and watch this for yourself.  I stand by the comments in my earlier post. 


fedupwithit wrote on March 22, 2014 at 11:03 am

Thank You Judge Klaus for doing the right thing here. I too believe that there should be some lattitude for leniency and that this case certainly begs for such leniency, however a straight probation sentence certainly depricates the seriousness of the offense and does not send an appropriate message to others similarly situated. Again thank you for having the fortitude to stand up and do what is right.

Mr Dreamy wrote on March 22, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Have you ever seen a Judge reject a deal because it was too harsh?

I didn't think so.

Candor wrote on March 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm

If a person wants to plead guilty and leave their sentence up to the judge rather than agree to what the State's Attorneys office agrees to, they can, and often do.  If someone is pleading guilty to a deal it's often because they think the judge will give them worse not better.  

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm

Everyone has an opinion just like noses.  Those who are familiar with the family understands the pain that they have been through.  This was an opportunity for healing, and repentence.  However; it was kicked aside by one man's attitude, and ego.  Judge Klaus' decision serves no one other than himself.

Candor wrote on March 22, 2014 at 5:03 pm

While in no way seeking to diminish the pain this tradgedy is causing, Judge Klaus's decision serves the public and the citizens of this community.  By making Ms. Reitz follow the statutory scheme which calls for harsh sentencing for causing someone else's death he is doing his job. Additionally, he's serving justice by attempting to maintain consistent justice.  This woman is being offered a break by Ms. Reitz that no other deadly DUI defendant has been given.  While the tradgedy and the family's pain cannot be ignored the criminal charges aren't about that they want, they're about the law.

C-U Townie wrote on March 23, 2014 at 2:03 pm

This type of situation is never an easy one to address. You have a young adult who made a very poor choice. That poor choice resulted in someone's death. 

Is justice the action of making a decision based on the offender or based on the offense? We see that argued all the time, nost of the time with some level of controversy behind it.  

In this case the defendant is a young, working mother who is employed in a commendable line of work. But does that change what she did? And if she is able to have the utmost respect for life (as any nurse should) then why would she risk the lives of others? It's a double-edged sword. If we are to take into consideration who she is then consider that she should, maybe more than others in her situation, have had hindsight and respect for the consequences of her poor decisions. She's employed to protect life, not jeopardize it. 

We've seen too many times how the State's Attorney has allowed some to walk away with lenient sentences and there was outrage. Now we see a judge doing what he is employed to do and there's outrage with that. I don't think the public is ever satisfied. But that's not what this is about. It's about justice. Not public satisfaction. 

I think Klaus' decision may feel extreme because it's easy to look at the offender first and ignore the severity of offense, and the fact that another young adult was robbed of her life. But in the end I think Klaus is doing justice. He is making a decision based on the offense, not the offender. It's not about sending a message but rather about upholding statutes that were created for a reason. 

Anonymous555 wrote on March 23, 2014 at 1:03 am

I want to remind everyone that this is a public site, meaning the family is able to view all posts. They have been through a tragedy and still have a long road ahead. Let's all be respectful of them and the tragedy they are going through. 

STM wrote on March 24, 2014 at 7:03 am

Any chance we can do away with the draped sheet in the mugshot?  Makes 'em all look guilty.  I don't know why, it just seems that way.