Man sentenced to six years for aggravated DUI
URBANA — A Champaign teen who seriously injured a woman in a car crash that happened after he had smoked cannabis is headed to prison.
And when he gets out, he'll have to begin repaying his victim more than $165,000 for medical expenses and lost income.
"The court utterly rejects the argument that this is an accident," Champaign County Judge Richard Klaus said in sentencing Aaron Duvall to six years for aggravated driving under the influence.
Duvall, 19, of the 1000 block of West Beardsley Avenue, pleaded guilty in May to driving when he had cannabis by-products in his system. He admitted that he had smoked on the same day of the Dec. 13 crash that left Patricia Dudley, 58, of Champaign, unable to walk or care for herself for months.
Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Dornik said Duvall was driving east on Springfield Avenue near Fieldstone Road in west Champaign at 12:45 p.m. when he tried pass a vehicle in front of him and hit Dudley head-on.
She sustained a shattered right ankle and serious crushing injuries and cuts to her left knee.
"I was unable to walk and was in a wheelchair for several weeks," Dudley wrote. Her husband read the statement aloud to Klaus because she couldn't attend Duvall's sentencing.
"I could not be left alone for the first eight weeks at home. My family had to take off work, cook my meals, empty my commode, help bathe me, change my wound dressing, take me to doctor appointments," read Terry Dudley.
Dudley said she continues to suffer both physically and mentally.
"I've endured flashbacks, taken very strong medicine that left me very weak, had anxiety nightmares about the accident. I have a fear of driving.
"I can no longer walk up or down steps without excruciating pain, can't ride a bike, swim, dance or stay on my feet for more than an hour. My feet and legs hurt and swell a lot. I cannot do housework or yard work because of poor balance, I can't walk my two dogs for exercise or do any exercise because of pain," she wrote.
Dornik recommended seven years in prison for Duvall, the cap she agreed to when he pleaded guilty. The maximum sentence is 12 years and 85 percent must be served. The prosecutor acknowledged that Duvall's only prior conviction was for reckless driving when he was 16 but said a message of deterrence had to be sent.
Besides admitting smoking the day of the crash, Dornik said Duvall told a probation officer that between ages 15 and 18, he smoked two to four bowls of cannabis two to three days a week.
"That use of drugs got him into this situation," she said.
Duvall's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Christopher Mellon, argued that it was "uncertain" how much of the crash was attributable to Duvall's impairment versus his inexperience as a driver.
Mellon reminded the judge that while Dudley's injuries were serious, they were not fatal and that Duvall had already served six months in jail.
He said Duvall has been a "model prisoner," has taken classes to get his GED, and has participated in self-help groups.
Duvall told the judge he would "regret what happened the rest of my life" and said he was "sincerely sorry" for the pain he had caused.
The comparison to other recent aggravated DUI sentences, in which defendants who killed people got lesser sentences, drew a quick, sharp response from Klaus.
"The court doesn't have the authority to charge. That power rests with the state's attorney. The judiciary can only respond to charges filed by the state's attorney," said Klaus.
Klaus said Dudley was a "completely innocent citizen doing nothing but driving down one of the busiest thoroughfares in Champaign during the middle of the day."
"The court has repeatedly raised the issue of its duty to protect citizens and send a message that there are serious consequences. The court utterly rejects the argument this is an accident. It is a course of conduct that constitutes a crime. The court must deter the conduct which is charged," he said.