Updated: Chaos in courtroom after sentencing in fatal crash

Updated: Chaos in courtroom after sentencing in fatal crash

URBANA — Chaos erupted in a Champaign County courtroom Wednesday afternoon after a judge sentenced an Urbana man to prison for killing a University of Illinois student in a traffic crash on campus last fall.

"Don't you know he had an accident?" Willie Craft Jr., 30, screamed at Judge Richard Klaus, after having called the judge a "bitch" more than once inside the crowded courtroom. "That man had an accident. Do you know that? This isn't justice."

Klaus immediately sentenced the younger Craft to six months in the county jail for direct contact criminal contempt of court and had him taken into custody, just moments after having sent his father to prison for 42 months for causing the death of Mimi Liu on Oct. 9, 2013.

The younger Craft could ask the judge to reconsider the sentence, the maximum Klaus could have imposed on Craft for criminal contempt without a trial.

The elder Craft, 59, pleaded guilty in early June to reckless homicide for causing the death of the 20-year-old agribusiness student. She was walking on Lincoln Avenue between classes when she was struck by Craft as he erratically drove his pickup, apparently suffering the effects of extremely low blood sugar from diabetes.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," Craft, the defendant, said in a weak voice at least 12 times prior to the imposition of sentence. "I'm going to have to pay for it the rest of my life."

Craft's other son, Tyler Craft, 27, was also taken into custody by court security officers after the hearing when he continued to yell and scream in the hallway outside the courtroom about what had just happened. He allegedly yelled at Miss Liu's parents as they scurried from the courtroom.

"It is of paramount importance to the court that people be deterred from employing a vehicle as lethal weapon," said Klaus, saying he had considered the mitigating evidence about the elder Craft's poor health caused by diabetes.

The state had agreed to ask for no more than 3 1/2 years when it negotiated the plea, dismissing a far more serious charge of aggravated driving under the influence which had been filed because Craft had by-products of cannabis in his system on the day of the crash.

"To a large degree, mitigation was already factored into the negotiated plea," said Klaus.

A second UI student, Spandana Mantravadi, 20, was also critically injured in the crash but survived. She suffered multiple injuries, including bleeding in the brain and a severely broken ankle that she said continues to leave her in constant pain.

The sentencing hearing was emotion-packed even before the outburst of Craft Jr.

Miss Liu's father, Zhi Liu, read aloud for almost seven minutes his written statement about the devastating effects of his daughter's death on him, his wife, and their 12-year-old daughter. His wife was also present.

"Our family will never again be complete or whole. Without our beautiful Mimi, none of us will ever be the same," he said.

Craft watched Liu intently as Liu read, both men choking back tears.

Defense attorneys Dave Rumley of Bloomington and Monroe McWard of Springfield called several witnesses to testify on Craft's behalf, starting with the medical doctor who has treated Craft for diabetes since 2007.

Dr. Kingsley Onyemere said that prior to the crash, Craft's diabetes was "reasonably controlled" with diet, exercise and insulin. But since January, when he was put back in jail, his blood sugar readings have wildly fluctuated.

"I would not say it's controlled (in jail)," Onyemere said. Low blood sugar, he said, can cause a loss of consciousness and damage to major organs and nerves.

Urbana police found Craft confused and lethargic after the crash, which happened after he had driven south on Lincoln Avenue in an erratic manner for about 14 city blocks. He was first spotted weaving around Fairview Avenue, north of University Avenue, and continued doing that until his pickup hit the retaining wall alongside Illini Grove, about 50 yards north of Pennsylvania Avenue after having run down Miss Liu and Mantravadi.

Claudia Lennhoff, executive director of the Champaign County Health Care Consumers, testified that she reviewed Craft's records and concluded that in spite of a special diabetic diet he has been getting in jail, his food remains heavy in simple carbohydrates, which turn to sugar in his system. Craft has also lost 20 pounds while in jail, she noted.

"This is somebody whose health is really deteriorating," she testified, admitting to Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dornik that her specialty is in community health and that she is not a doctor or a nutritionist.

Adding to the sense of sadness was the testimony of Craft's 14-year-old granddaughter, whom he adopted and has raised as his daughter. Vanessa Craft said she depended on her widower grandfather to do the cooking, play with her, and take her places before he was jailed. She's about to enter high school.

Arguing for the 3 1/2-year prison sentence, Dornik said others like Craft must be deterred from driving.

"He deliberately disregarded his medical condition and made choices. He could have eaten when he wanted to and could have managed his diabetes but did he? No. He chose to drive despite telling the Urbana Police Department that he hadn't driven in three years. He chose not to eat breakfast despite knowing he needed to," she said.

"This crime, this entire factual situation was entirely preventable," she argued, saying that pedestrians on a sidewalk have a right to feel safe from passing motorists.

She also asked, rhetorically, why Craft chose to smoke cannabis at the age of 58.

"Actions, as usual, speak louder than words," Dornik said. "The only person whose life is over is Mimi's."

Rumley argued that Craft indeed should not have been driving that day. His blood sugar level was 23; a normal level is between 70 and 130, he said.

But he urged the judge to consider probation for Craft, who he said had no criminal record, had worked his entire adult life at the UI, and had raised his granddaughter as his own child.

He said Craft's condition has worsened in the six months he's been in the county jail despite the best efforts of jail staff to monitor and treat his diabetes.

"They're doing it right and his blood sugar is all over the road. I don't have any reason to believe it would be any better in DOC. He's a shrinking man. He's dying. He's suffering," said Rumley, who added that he and his daughter could help each other should he be allowed to remain in the community.

Sections (2):News, Local


News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

wayward wrote on July 09, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Hmmm... calling a judge a "stupid bitch" in court.  How could that possibly end badly?

787 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 4:07 pm

There's nothing like keeping it classy...  what a sad display in front of everyone involved.

wayward wrote on July 09, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Though I've gotta say that 6 months seems like kind of a lot for yelling at a judge, given that even some felonies don't result in any time.  I'd think that letting him cool off in jail overnight might be more reasonable.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 09, 2014 at 7:07 pm
Profile Picture

It's an ongoing debate in the legal community.

My opinion is that "contempt of court" penalties violate the 5th and 6th amendments.


In this case, six months is outrageous. A week in jail is a lot. A month in jail is a ton. Half a year in jail is just ridiculous. For one thing, it implies that Judge Klaus's sense of decorum is 1/7th as valuable as Mimi Liu's life.

wayward wrote on July 09, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Yeah, the idea of someone going to jail for 6 months with no due process does bother me. A courtroom shouldn't be a zoo, and I agree there should be potential consequences for misbehavior. But why doesn't contempt involve charges and the option of a trial like other offenses?

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 4:07 pm

There is due process. The violator is incriminating themselves in front of the finder of fact. They can also file a writ of habeus corpus.

drewbert41 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Why the outrage? Your dad is going to serve a total of like two years for KILLING someone.

Medical issues or not, sounds like he got off easy. Id feel fortunate for that sentence if it was my family member.

Teach4567 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 2:07 pm

How is Jr. not in jail himself? He's got a laundry list of criminal charges.

jmh910 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 3:07 pm

I have to believe there is not equal justice in this county.  

I sat on the coroners jury for the Matthew Wilhelm case.  He was killed by a motorist in a similar incident. The difference? The motorist was downloading ringtones on her cell phone, whereas Mr. Craft was not properly monitoring his medication.

The girl who hit Matthew Wilhelm got a slap on the wrist. Mr. Craft will go to prison for his actions.

Julia Reitz made the decision NOT to file more severe charges in the Wilhelm case - even though the coroner's jury determined the death to be homicidal.  Her reasoning was that downloading ringtones while driving doesn't fit the definition of being 'reckless' - 


Mr. Craft committed the same 'crime' and will spend four years in prison. I don't get it.


Teach4567 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Could be the marijuana in his system and previous driving record. That's just a guess, honestly. I agree both are reckless in their own way.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 9:07 pm
Profile Picture

So you would agree then, teach, that drinking alcohol is reckless as well....right?

If not, you're a massive hypocrite.

Joe American wrote on July 10, 2014 at 8:07 am

No, drinking alcohol to the point of impairment, and then driving, is reckless.  Drinking alcohol in itself is not.

MeeDee wrote on July 10, 2014 at 10:07 am

So why is impairment not required for marijuana use to escalate the charge to aggravted dui? Why should alcohol consumption get a free pass until "impaired", while marijuana is a zero tolerance aggravated dui factor?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 11:07 am
Profile Picture

MeeDee beat me to it.

Under the current laws, someone who smoked a joint three weeks ago can be charged with a DUI.  That's how long cannabis metabolites can last in the system, even though they are not making you "high" in any way unless you have smoked (or vaporized, or ate) in the past few hours.  No reasonable person should think that is fair.

jparks wrote on July 11, 2014 at 8:07 am


The most obvious reason impairment is not required for marijuana is that marijuana is illegal and alcohol is not.










ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 09, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Profile Picture

I agree that Jennifer Stark should have seen jail time, as should Craft Sr.


You behave in a way that kills somebody = jail time. It's just that simple.


I think a Champaign County jury could have found a way to fit "downloading ringtones" into the "wilful and wanton" language of the statute.

drewbert41 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Wow, ringtones man should have been locked up for a long time...

This kind of stuff amazes/ disgusts me.

BlahBlahBlah2013 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 4:07 pm

This story is really sad. I really feel for both sides. The victim, of course, because I can't imagine losing a child but also for the driver and his family, especially the grandaughter/daughter. And honestly, for the driver himself.

I didn't sit in at the trial so I can't speak to all the facts but passing out for a medical condition like diabetes just makes this sentencing hard for me to accept. One of the other comments mentions the Wilhelm tragedy.  I think downloading pictures is more of a case for prison than this case. Sure, he had marijuana in his system but I doubt that was really much of a factor in the accident. Not saying it's a good idea to smoke it and drive but having a severely low blood sugar level seems to be the main cause. That said, the prosecutor would obviuosly try and play up the politically correct, "you're smoking pot and you're how old??" Which is really an outdated argument. But in court I suppose you play that card.

My ex-mother-in-law passed out behind the wheel and remembers nothing. Woke up in a ditch and her car totaled. Luckily for her she didn't hurt anybody but if she had, would she be in prison now?



marylouise wrote on July 09, 2014 at 6:07 pm

You need a lesson in the basics: The State's Attorney decides the charges to file; not the Judge! His decision has to be based upon what the State's Attorney, that all of you elected, sets as the outcome. If you think there is a problem with injustice, then you need to rethink how you vote.

And if you think it is ok to smoke dope and drive, guess again. Ask Jesse White about this. Sadly, diabetes is a bad thing. Diabetics know when their sugar is low - don't any of you know one? Dope was probably not what the doctor presribed for this man to use with his diabetes.

Maybe you should check with your State's Attorney's office and find out what else he had in his system when tested at a date prior to the trial. You may change your mind about your "injustice". His kids know.

Judge Klaus is a good judge. You are lucky to have him in your court system.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 9:07 pm
Profile Picture

Hahaha, smoke "dope."  Did you just come off of a time machine from the 1950's?

I don't know about diabetes specifically, but marijuana (or THC and cannabinoids, specifically) actually have a host of medical benefits that are just beginning to be discovered.

He wasn't high when he was driving either.  Despite the predatory criminal justice system's claims otherwise, having metabolites in your system does not mean that you are intoxicated at the time.

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

It does under Illinois law.

 (625 ILCS 5/11-501) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11-501)
    (Text of Section from P.A. 98-122)
    Sec. 11-501. Driving while under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, intoxicating compound or compounds or any combination thereof. 
    (a) A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any vehicle within this State while:(6) there is any amount of a drug, substance, or    compound in the person's breath, blood, or urine resulting from the unlawful use or consumption of cannabis listed in the Cannabis Control Act, a controlled substance listed in the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, an intoxicating compound listed in the Use of Intoxicating Compounds Act, or methamphetamine as listed in the Methamphetamine Control and Community Protection Act. Subject to all other requirements and provisions under this Section, this paragraph (6) does not apply to the lawful consumption of cannabis by a qualifying patient licensed under the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act who is in possession of a valid registry card issued under that Act, unless that person is impaired by the use of cannabis.


alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 12:07 pm
Profile Picture

I know, that's the problem.  Do you agree with that law?  Do you think that someone who smoked two weeks ago be considered driving under the influence?

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm

No, I don't; however, it is NOT up to a judge to change the law, either.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 09, 2014 at 11:07 pm
Profile Picture

Mary Louise, I don't have any experience with Judge Klaus. Evidently you do. Perhaps you could shed some light by sharing your first-hand knowledge of his jurisprudence.


The irony here is that, while your assertion is correct (The People file the charges), one doesn't need to dig very deep to find a case in which Judge Klaus seemed to take on the role of prosecutor:


So which of your assertions is faulty?

C-U Townie wrote on July 09, 2014 at 6:07 pm

What's most frightening is how his sons have no appreciationfor the gravity of what his father did. An accident is a loose term. His "accident' borders on reckless intent at the very least. He knowingly operated a motor vehicle when his medical condition was not being managed. What this man did was a) not manage his medical condition well and b) despite not managing it well he decided that he was fine to drive. He made a choice. He gambled. He lost. The fact that his sons can't understand that only further shows a blatant disregard of hindsight, not to mention the law. 

I would wonder the type of outrage that would be spewed from his sons had their father been the victim (either dead or seriously injured) had one of those young girls been the driver and only received 3 years. I imagine the vitriol of the judge would have been much worse. But they only see their losses; not the losses of others. Human nature, but their display of wonton disrespect of the parents of the girls? I'm glad the sons were held accountable for their behavior as well. 

So unfortunate how we're blessed with hindsight yet some ignore it. Then have the audacity to admonish those who hold them accountable. I will say one thing, though. The State's Attorney needs to be held accountable for the inconsistency in doling out justice. Shame on her for being as reckless with the power she wields.  

wayward wrote on July 09, 2014 at 7:07 pm

This does raise some questions about when a poorly-managed medical condition becomes recklessness. If someone had a stroke or heart attack behind the wheel, could they be charged with recklessness if it turned out they'd had problems with high blood pressure or cholesterol? Where do you draw the line?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm
Profile Picture

They would absolutely charge people in circumstances like that, if they thought they could get away with it without massive public outrage.

Ultimately, the goal of most prosecutors and judges is to imprison as many citizens as possible.  That is their mission in life, and that's how they advance in their careers.

jparks wrote on July 11, 2014 at 7:07 am

"Ultimately, the goal of most prosecutors and judges is to imprison as many citizens as possible."

 Oh if only that was true America would be a better place for all of us.  I don't have to go any farther than today's (Friday) News Gazette to point out a story on a man sentenced to 10 years (out in 5 for day-to-day good behavior) convicted for Aggrevated Criminal Sexual Assault who had prior convictions for Burglary, Aggrevated Robbery, and another Aggrevated Criminal Sexual Assault.  He should not have been convicted for his crime on November 13.  It should never have taken place.  He should never have been on the street to commit it.  He should have been serving the rest of his sentences for his previous crimes.  What do you think he will be doing in five years? 

Judge Michael McCuskey just retired because he was required to sentence criminals to terms longer than he felt appropriate due to mandatory minimum sentencing.

Judge Heidi Ladd recently said "she was going to take a chance" on a criminal who had been convicted of 19 previous crimes, nine of those being felonies, and sentenced him to probation.  Seriously?

Jsmith68 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Rob.  Again you always express your opinions as a lawyer. You haven't spent a single day in trial in your career.  When you walk the walk you can talk the talk. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on July 09, 2014 at 11:07 pm
Profile Picture

And again, you're wrong.

I've represented clients in Champaign County court. I've successfully argued cases in Champaign County court. 


Who are you? Why do you feel entitled to make these things up?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 11:07 pm
Profile Picture

Well, Klaus did act like a bitch during the Daly case, when he didn't even have the guts to look the defendant in the eye as he sentenced her.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 11:07 am
Profile Picture

Yeah, yelling at the victim's family is pretty disgraceful on the son's part.

Six months for "contempt of court," though?  C'mon.  Contempt of court shouldn't even be a criminal offense.  If someone acts out in court, kick them out.  Ban them from the courthouse for a certain amount of time, perhaps.  But six months in jail for not being nice to a judge?

The ego and self-importance of most judges is just astounding.  They think they are God.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 09, 2014 at 9:07 pm
Profile Picture

"(Dornik) also asked, rhetorically, why Craft chose to smoke cannabis at the age of 58."

I don't know, maybe for the same reason a 58 year old might enjoy a beer or two?   Why the hell was she even bringing this up when the convoluted "DUI" aspect of the case had already been dropped in the plea agreement?  I doubt that God Klaus admonished her for that, though.

chrisr150 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 5:07 am

Either way, Jr. showed complete disrespect to the family of the dead. What a shame. It's not about YOU and your loss. It's about the girls. I think Judge Klaus is trying to be more fair in sentencing, since he is the single judge for these types of cases (or at least that's my understanding). The justice system isn't fair, each case, each person acts in a different manner be it one time or throughtout their lives. The cover picture of the News Gazette shows a woman's face, which appears in shock, from Jr's. outburst, which I think highlights just how out of control/disrespectful/alarming he became. After listening to that, anyone would.  

Both men have the OPPORTUNITY to learn from this and maybe grow. However, one woman only leaves her memory, while the other will struggle for a lifetime. 

Local Yocal wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

@chrisr150: the woman's face in The News-Gazette cover photo is none other than Eldress Hattie Poulk who just happens to co-host a radio call-in talkshow every Sunday morning at 8:15 a.m. on WEFT 90.1 FM. You might want to tune in for her real thoughts on this topic if you bring it up. (359-5483)

jmh910 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

"Craft's other son, Tyler Craft, 27, was also taken into custody by court security officers after the hearing when he continued to yell and scream in the hallway outside the courtroom about what had just happened. He allegedly yelled at Miss Liu's parents as they scurried from the courtroom."

I lose sympathy of any kind for the Craft family if he really was yelling at the victim's parents. That's just sickening. 


Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Justice served: A comparison is made to a ringtones case. I don't know the details but on the surface, yes, I do think she should be punished more. Indeed, I believe a new law was passed(?) exactly in response to this case, and guess what, it's 8 years later.

Did Ms. ringtones have insurance? I know Craft didn't; he shouldn't have been on the road. Who's paying for Mantravadi's bills? I realize this is a civil matter, but probably he doesn't have squat. That's an aggravating factor to me.

Some, like Alabaster Jones argue that

1. he wasn't "really" intoxicated from grass (PASS)

2. it's not "really" fair that he be punished for his medical condition (PASS)

3. his lack of insurance is a separate matter for which he should pay his $50 fine or whatever (PASS)


I disagree: 

1. Even if he wasn't intoxicated he was commiting a crime during the accident, and the law's the law

2. He was well aware of his medical condition; this was not a sudden event like a first time stroke. YES, if you are aware of a medical issue, that does raise your negligence

3. "Aggravating factor", as I mention above.

CONCLUSION: fractional guilt for 1,2 and 3 = some time, which is what he got (after pleading guilty by the way).

Separately, I notice that his other son's been booked for "Intimidation (including ethnic)". Even if you don't agree with the Judge's decision, is attacking the parent's really a sympathetic move? 



alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

The "grass" argument....yeah, right, "the law is the law."  The rallying cry of the uninformed lock-em-all-up crowd, who don't care about the prison-industrial complex....or the fact that we incarcerate our citizens at a far greater rate than any other country in the world, all at a massive cost to taxpayers.  The "War on Drugs," which I would imagine that you wholeheartedly support, is largely to thank for that.  So, just to clarify, you think it's reasonable that someone could be charged with DUI multiple weeks after smoking a joint?

The insurance thing is also completely unrelated.  It had as much to do with the fateful incident itself as what the devil ate for dinner last night does.  It contributed to the incident in no way, shape, or form.  "Aggravating factor" is a usually a fancy way of saying "unrelated but prejudicial factor to make the defendant look worse."  Bringing up civil court concerns, conceding that they are irrelevant to the criminal case, and then citing them as an "aggravating factor" anyway, is also an absurd non-sequitur.

I'll concede this, though....the more I've read about this case, the more I would agree that he should have managed his illness better, and that he bears some responsibility for that.  Earlier articles were not as clear about just how badly he had neglected his condition.  And I think everyone agrees that yelling at the dead girl's family is deplorable.

Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Actually I agree with more lax laws for marijuana and I agree with you that the prison industrial complex situation in this country is total BS. But I don't agree that those issues should be applied to this particular situation, that's all.

Also, the civil matter IS relevant to mitigation. Suppose Craft said "Man, I know I did wrong (12 times), and I was so stupid to not have insurance. I don't have much money, but I'm selling my house and helping to do what I can to pay off that poor girl's medical bills." I'd be more sympathetic. In reality, she'll probably never see a cent, so whose gonna give some justice for that?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

Fair enough. I shouldn't have made assumptions.

Although, I imagine he'll be selling his house anyway, or having it seized, assuming that he even has one to begin with. I imagine it's hard to pay your mortgage in prison.

Yes, it's highly unfortunate that the surviving girl will have medical bills to pay off, and that Craft won't be able to help out with that. I still don't see how that relates to his criminal case, though.

And, it would probably be easier for him to help out with those bills if he was employed in the work force instead of in prison. Just saying. If it were up to me, he would be kept in free society under the condition that he worked his ass off 40+ hours a week, and put every extra cent he made into paying off her medical bills. If that's too much for him, he could choose prison instead. That would be the fairest outcome for both Craft and the surviving victim, in my (sometimes) humble opinion.

Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Of course I more or less agree with the sentiment of your last paragraph. But we all know that's just fantasy, so what are we going to do with what we've got?

Local Yocal wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

It's nice to see a growing debate about how things get decided over at The Courthouse.

It's 30 years overdue.

And it's nice to see memories getting longer than Mary Schenk's weekly cherry picking and the horrific accuracy of this website's search engine. 

 Perhaps this "experiment" of allowing cameras/video cameras in the courtroom will begin to expose prosecutorial and judicial behavior. With the exception of showing the identities of juries, juveniles, sex crime victims, and the few witnesses who could experience retaliation, each courtroom in Champaign County should have their own government C-Span channel for all-day broadcasting and re-play during the evening.  People would be shocked at what happens over at The Jim Crow Museum where live re-enactments of what life was like before the civil rights movement are held every week. As this gets more exposed, people will need to brace for impact when prosecutors and judges need to appear "fair" to cover up what's been the bias over at The Museum. The Kathryn Daly's, the Jennifer Stark's and future Lisa Staples' of the world and their families are going to wonder "why so tough?" when the hammer starts falling on the privileged classes. Please understand, we got elections coming up and the decisions are starting to get noticed nowadays.  An interesting development here with this piece of yellow journalism: videographer Rick Dansyl's editorial enhancements during Judge Klaus' verdict. While Klaus is talking, we are shown photos of how bad the accident was, photos of the tear-jerking wreath for Ms. Lui, the grieving Mr. Lui, and more photos of the damaged truck on the sidewalk. The News-Gazette reporters and editorial staff obviously agree with the verdict and use its photo archive to support the judge's decision.  The unflattering and unexplained presentation of the behavior of Mr. Craft's children show The News-Gazette reporters thought it just awful and stupid the way Craft's children behaved in court. (The unintended consequences might be that The News-Gazette is promoting more of this behavior in the future now that families and friends of the parties involved see the courtroom can become a place for theatrics to get your message across, front page even. Maybe C-Span channels are a bad idea?) But if objective reporting is the goal, and here it is not, then let's have the other side: when Judge Klaus says, "There is mitigation in this record, there is no doubt." how about we see photos of a fit Mr. Craft working all those years at the U of I, pictures of his fine home he paid property taxes on, the happy photos of a fit Mr. Craft parenting his boys through school, the happy photos of a fit Mr. Craft raising his grand-daughter? Instead, we get another cut-away to a photo of the wrecked vehicle, and when Craft is tearfully apologizing, we get cut-away photos of Craft handcuffed and in orange jumpsuit, and then Judge Klaus' sarcastic dismissal of Craft's apology of "Here's what I know for certain,..." as Klaus begins the absurd accusation that Craft chose to use his car as "a lethal weapon." Again, Judge Klaus trots out the lame deterrence excuse to levy a prison sentence; forgetting his own preceding comments, "Unfortunately, this [cars causing great bodily harm] is something that is demonstrated to the court on a weekly basis in this courtroom," a blanket admission prison is no deterrence.   When Judge Klaus casually announces the prison sentence while tossing the file aside, how about a cut away to photos of newly-arrived inmates at Joliet to be processed into the system, lined up, stripped naked in the yard as other inmates hoot and howl at the "new meat?" (Don't have that photo in the photo archives, eh, N-G?) How about a photo of the typical dirty 5 X 9 jail cell Craft will have to share for the next several years in a prison system built for 33,000 but housing over 45,000? How about a photo of a typical meal the diabetic Craft will have to eat for the next three years? How about a cut away to the statistics of how the prison healthcare funding has been cut? How about a cut-away to the stats on the number of stabbing deaths and rapes per year in Illinois prisons? Wouldn't those editorial enhancements also better explain the reactions of his children to the verdict that could have been titled: "Natural" rather than "chaotic"? Such considerations should have been understood by Judge Klaus before he meted out the $10,800 tax dollar/6-month jail sentence for the son.  Who cares, right? The pot-smoking Craft killed an innocent person and severely disabled another. He's lucky it's only 3 years.  Unbeknownst to the grieving Lui and Mantravadi Families, the criminal justice system is the wrong place to arrive at meaningful resolutions to these unintended tragedies. These heartbreaks are controlled by well-paid professionals who use it to seek prestige, voters, and money. Their contradictory, inconsistent, cold-hearted decisions can never keep the peace, nor has the State of Illinois designed for peaceful resolutions in its brutal prison systems that deter NOTHING. Somebody is going to lose or be unduly favored as the professionals' sole interest is their personal interests. Representing The Big Nanny, prosecutor Dornik overreaches with new standards for criminal liability: 1) failure to have breakfast and 2) the completely irrelevant info to the accident, "once-upon-a-time, he smoked a splif." The only thing the system got barely right in this case was Mr. Craft having to confront the grief of Mr. Lui. Those two families, those two fathers should have had a chance to reckon the events. Instead, the criminal justice system gets in the way for a public show of the blame game to reach incomprehensible conclusions. We still have no answer for why Mr. Craft chose to drove that day, and what happened in that truck. Instead of satisfactory justice for all parties concerned like, the Craft family working to help with the medical bills of the Mantravadi Family; we now have 3 unemployed men on the taxpayer dole, no restitution to the victims, and the only ones making a profit is Dornik, Klaus, the prison guards, and further drains on the public safety budget.

But videographers like Rick Dansyl can't see that, and reporters like Schenk could care less why the Craft boys believe their dad was unjustifiably jailed. It's just more tantalizing gossip to exploit for newspaper sales.   

Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Given that you write such an long, intense argument, I'm surprised you missed the point that journalism is never objective. Are you being objective?

Local Yocal wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm
Profile Picture

Probably not, since things done by humans always carry their bias. But what is unacceptable is The News-Gazette's consistent one-sided presentation, leaving events like the eruption in the courtroom by other grieving family members losing their dad to the prison system unexplained, misunderstood. The attempt here has been to present another view and question the tools available to the criminal justice system that, in this case, failed to keep the peace and has left few feeling that justice has been served.

Doubtful, Miss Mary Schenk will go to the county jail to find out why Craft Jr. acted the way he did. But you'll probably see another heartwrenching tale with the grieving parents of the deceased tomorrow.

This edited, "enhanced" video with material that did not happen in the courtroom is new terroritory and was not covered by the Supreme Court's decision to allow cameras in the courtroom. It's worth calling The Gazette on it.

Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Actually, I must take issue with "another heartwrenching tale". I've never seen an article focused on interviewing the deceased's parents online in this paper or elsewhere. I'm happy to be shown otherwise. Yes, there have been articles with gracious words about Liu. I guess, you know, being mowed down, buys you a little of that. 

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Profile Picture

Has Schenk EVER interviewed a defendant to get his or her side of the story? I can't recall that ever happening. She often just writes whatever is in the police report, and maybe interviews a cop or two if she can be bothered to do that.

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

Since when is a person material to a case actually going to comment on the record? Any attorney would advise against that.

rsp wrote on July 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Why do you think that was the first time he drove, that he was telling the truth? Because that truck without insurance was driven prior to that day, and before hitting Lincoln Ave. was speeding down Bradley Ave. I've seen that truck on the road. Why did he decide to drive that day? Why not? People who don't pay attention don't realize how sick they are. They are too busy doing for other people. I imagine he's been doing that for a while and hasn't had his blood sugar under control for a long time. It caught up with him. This whole thing about the cheap shots and bringing up things outside of the plea agreement is at a minimim unprofesional. I think it puts the legal system in a bad light.

Local Yocal wrote on July 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm
Profile Picture

@ Alexander: You're obviously new to town and this newspaper.

Alexander wrote on July 10, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Sure, whatever.

cretis16 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

The lesson here...Dont smoke dope and drive..and take a little responsibility and watch the blook sugar. This whole thing was preventable...by ( drum roll) Mr. Craft. That's a pretty light sentence for killing an innocent girl.

alabaster jones 71 wrote on July 10, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Profile Picture

He wasn't high at the time.  He just had metabolites in his system from smoking much earlier.

The metabolites remain in your system for weeks after use.  That doesn't mean you are intoxicated or that your functions are impaired.  What is so hard to understand about this?

If you're ever interested in getting with the times and breaking out of your outdated mindset, there is plenty of information out there for you.

SaintClarence27 wrote on July 11, 2014 at 8:07 am

He is now.

Alexander wrote on July 11, 2014 at 9:07 am

About metabolites: I wanted to add that the reason that metabolites is used for the purpose of "impairment" is that there is no version of the 0.08 rule that is used for alcohol. 

In Craft's case, he WAS impaired according to the police reports. He *says* that it was due to diabetes, just like he says that was the first time he drove the truck in three years and he says he was on the way to the insurance company, and he apparently says he hadn't smoked up in a couple of weeks (if my understanding of alabaster jones' understanding is correct). 

None of these claims need to be tested in court, because he pled out, but let's not take those claims as fact.

cretis16 wrote on July 11, 2014 at 4:07 pm

Yes, from the comments, I am beginning to wonder ...Who is the victim here? Certainly not Mr. Craft. I wonder how  Mimi's family feels if they read the comments here of so much sympathy for Mr. Craft. Mr Craft made the choice to

1 Not purchase insurance

2. Not moniter blood sugar

3 Smoke dope

He additionally raised a couple of disresptul children with criminal backgrounds...(thanks to poster for the links). Pretty light sentence for killing an innocent and wounding another. Mr. Craft is NOT the victim here.

Head over to the county clerks office and lookup CRAFT.....I got bored after reading all the court cases...Whew...