Updated: Urbana man pleads guilty in fatal crash on UI campus

Updated: Urbana man pleads guilty in fatal crash on UI campus

An Urbana man faces up to three-and-a-half years in prison when he's sentenced in connection with a crash that killed a University of Illinois student last year.

In court Wednesday, 59 year-old Willie Craft pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless homicide.  Two aggravated driving under the influence charges were dismissed as a part of the plea agreement.

Champaign County Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dornik said Craft was experiencing diabetic complications while driving down Lincoln Avenue last October.

Craft's attorney Monroe McWard said he's happy that there's a plea deal in the case but said there's still more work ahead.

Judge Richard Klaus will decide Craft's sentence on July 9.  Attorneys for both sides on Wednesday agreed to cap the sentence recommendation at three-and-a-half years in prison.  McWard said he plans to ask for probation.

This is all in connection with an accident last October on south Lincoln Avenue.  Craft was at the wheel of his pickup truck when he lost consciousness and struck two UI students.  One of them, 20 year-old Mimi Liu, was killed.

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areader wrote on June 04, 2014 at 5:06 pm

This guy killed a human being with a possible short term jail time with probation?  Certainly not much of a punishment in my opinion!  How disgusting! And I think plea agreements should be stopped!  No deals for those who kill others!  


rsp wrote on June 04, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Who paid for the medical expenses of the victims? Another thing he wasn't charged with was for the lack of insurance.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 05, 2014 at 6:06 am
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@areader, you never seem satisfied with any sentence.  AND WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL HIM AN IDIOT OR A SCUMBAG IN ALL CAPS LIKE USUAL?  ARE YOU IN A GOOD MOOD TODAY????

I'm sure that the courts, both locally and throughout the country (or the world, why stop there?), will immediately give serious consideration to your suggestion to "stop" plea agreements, though.

Does anyone have any evidence that this wasn't simply a tragic accident?  Should it be illegal to drive if you have diabetes?  Has anyone presented any proof that he was intoxicated on anything at the specific time the accident happened?

It's all just a very childish mindset at play here.  One that says, every time something tragic happens, someone must be responsible for it, and must be held accountable.  Sometimes an accident is an accident.

Alexander wrote on June 05, 2014 at 8:06 am

Well, according to the articles linked to the right, he didn't have proper registration (nor insurance) for his car. If it were a gun that he had no legal documents to use he would be a "bad guy". So why don't you compare with sentences to people who illegally own and "accidentally" discharge a firearm causing death? Never mind that he was too preoccupied to eat to manage his diabetes, but not too preoccupied to smoke dope. You're unbelievable to defend this guy, all the while attaching "childish mindset" to the situation --given the grave consequences of his actions.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 05, 2014 at 8:06 pm
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The gun comparison is completely asinine and irrelavant.  What does the fact that he didn't have insurance have to do with the accident?  Would this situation somehow be "better" if he had insurance?

Was he high on cannabis at the time of the accident, or did he just have metabolites in his system?  If the latter is true, then that is also irrelavant....well, at least from a fair and practical sense, if not a legal one.  Those two senses often oppose each other.

"He should have eaten a candy bar to avoid a diabetic episode" seems to be the only somewhat valid argument I've heard about why this guy should be held criminally responsible.  Even then, that seems like a slippery slope to me.

I stand by my statements tenfold.  He had a high-profile accident that made the news, so the powers that be need to make an example of him so that they don't look "soft on crime."  Never underestimate the court system's ability to interject itself into a tragedy in order to feed public hysteria.  If this was a well to do member of the community instead of a poor nobody from Rantoul, I can assure you this case would be handled very differently right now.  Imagine if it were Jimmy John.....

Alexander wrote on June 06, 2014 at 7:06 am

From one of the articles linked above and to the right:

"Craft told police he had not driven in three years because of his diabetes and on that day was planning to visit the secretary of state's office to get license plates and an insurance agent to get insurance. He did not have either."

He did not have insurance *and* he did not have plates. In other words, he was illegally operating a car which turned out to be a dangerous weapon. How is this comparison "asinine" and "irrelavant"?

I don't know what would happen if a fictional plateless and insuranceless Jimmy John was involved.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 2:06 pm
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I understand that he didn't have insurance or plates.  I'm not arguing that he shouldn't be charged for that.  Once again, what does the fact that he didn't have those things have to do with the accident itself?

Alexander wrote on June 06, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Your original post asserts that he was essentially blameless, and to think otherwise is "childish". I confront that with the simple statement that when you are illegally operating machinery and someone dies, it stands to reason that it's less of an "accident" than you suppose. There *are* reasons why we insist on insurance and plates to drive -- it isn't just a blow off requirement. Perhaps someone can't get either because they are so dangerous to put behind a wheel.

Would you call it an "accident" if someone pretended to be a licensed doctor and mistakenly missed a call on whether an x-ray showed signs of a patient's cancer? How about a pretend electrician installing work that "accidently" causes a fire? Or, an unlicensed gun owner whose gun "accidently" fires and kills someone? 

*Possibly* in each case the same would have happened if the people involved were licensed, but we'll never know. What we do know is that such people started the ball rolling towards an eventual tragedy through criminal action. 

In conclusion, while you seem to think he was railroaded to any sentence at all, I believe he was lucky to get away with such a light sentence. 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 9:06 pm
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You apparently missed it the first time, so I'll say it again.....I'm not saying that we shouldn't require insurance and plates to drive, or that Mr. Craft shouldn't have been charged for not having those things!!!  I'm just saying that the fact that he didn't have those things has absolutely nothing do with the accident itself, because....it doesn't!

The new analogies you just listed are even sillier than the gun one in your earlier post was.  I presume Mr. Craft knew how to drive that fateful day.  Not even remotely the same as someone who doesn't know how to practice medicine making a diagnosis!

In response to your new gun query, no, I don't think it makes a damn bit of difference if someone who accidentally fires off a gun and kills someone is a licensed gun owner or not.  I think gun owners should be licensed, but it's ridiculous to say that the fact that this hypothetical gun owner wasn't licensed somehow contributed to his hypothetical accident that wouldn't have had any less chance of happening if he were hypothetically licensed.

If it's an accident that could have just as easily had happened if the offender in question was licensed, then whether or not he is licensed is completely irrelavant, at least as far as his responsibility for the action that caused the accident itself.  Yes, saying that someone "set the chains in motion" for contributing to a fatal accident by not being registered to drive is absolutely absurd.  

FLN wrote on June 10, 2014 at 11:06 am

Sorry Alabaster, but you're wrong. It is relevant to the accident because it further affirms Mr. Craft was irresponsible and negligent. He made the choice to drive without caring that if he caused an accident he had proper insurance to pay. That is irresponsible. Mr. Craft was even more grossly irresponsible and negligent by not considering his diabetic condition's effect on his ability to operate a vehicle safely and choosing to drive. He ended up killing a young student and severely injuring another--grossly negligent and irresponsible on his part!

It's evident Mr. Craft didn't care because he flouted responsibility in more ways than one. Everyone has a responsibility to lessen the likelihood and consequences of accidents. Alabaster, why don't you ask Mr. Craft's victims if they would have liked if he had taken precautions and been more responsible that day?

I would say Mr. Craft got off easy.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on June 06, 2014 at 9:06 pm
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You just have the trial lawyer mindset here.  The mindset that says, let's not consider the facts of the incident themselves, but rather all of the irrelavant outside circumstances that make him look worse!

Alexander wrote on June 07, 2014 at 6:06 am

Your form of "argument", to simply *label* the counter-claims as "silly" or "absurd" or "childish" etc is unproductive. I read everything you claimed. I simply disagree with your conclusions. Yes, he should be charged with having no plates etc *and causing death*. But, lucky for him, that's what, a $500 fine? Good deal, maybe we should all go insuranceless. 

In fact, a little searching shows that other countries like the UK have better laws about driving without insurance and causing death. I haven't heard about the UK having the prison industry complex I think we have here. I don't think he should go to jail for 10 years, but I don't think he should do probation either. Our laws are too lax on this issue, which is probably why the prosecutor needed to appeal to the marijuana metabolites issue.

What's your real reason for your defense? Were you or someone you know a "victim" of the criminal justice system? 

I'm not a trial lawyer. In fact, since you seem to think you know what the "mentality" is, I 100% doubt you have any legal training yourself since you've repeatedly misspelled irrelevant (which I gather from TV is a key word in that field). Are you sure you know what you're talking about?

P.S. With the doctor analogy, I said "unlicensed". Think he's a doctor from another country who at least thinks he knows what he's doing but doesn't actually have the legal credentials here. Of course, you could have taken that charitable interpretation and argued from there if you were serious about discussion. 

P.P.S. Why do you *presume* Craft knew how to drive that day? I mean, a driver's license isn't that hard to get -- but after all, he had no credentials and caused a fatality. I would have presumed the opposite unless proven otherwise. Similarly, I would presume that someone who goes out there without plates and insurance is in some way negligent if he causes death.