UI Research Park director gets court supervision for DUI

UI Research Park director gets court supervision for DUI

CHAMPAIGN — University of Illinois Research Park Director Laura Frerichs was sentenced to 12 months of court supervision for driving under the influence of alcohol last summer in Champaign.

Champaign County Judge Ronda Holliman handed down this sentence Monday after Frerichs pleaded guilty to the offense last month. She originally pleaded innocent to two counts of DUI, two counts of improper lane usage and one count of disobeying a traffic control device in September, but under a plea deal worked out by special prosecutor Andrea Bergstrom and Frerich's attorney, Mark Lipton, the UI official pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor driving under the influence, with the rest of the charges being dismissed.

The charges stemmed from her arrest Aug. 3 after she was pulled over around 2:20 a.m. in southwest Champaign. According to police reports, Frerichs had been driving west on Windsor Road and pulled into the intersection of Windsor and Prospect Avenue after the light turned red and stopped there. She backed up her vehicle and struck the front of the squad car of Champaign County sheriff's Deputy J.P. Reifsteck, who was in the lane behind her. After hitting Reifsteck's car, she continued driving west and stopped about two blocks away after Reifsteck turned on his siren.

Upon completing the traffic stop, Reifsteck noted Frerichs had "bloodshot, watery eyes" and had a strong odor of alcohol, Bergstrom said Monday. Frerichs admitted to the officer that she had had a couple glasses of wine at a work function that evening, and Reifsteck completed a field sobriety test, ultimately arresting her. A breath test conducted an hour later at the jail revealed her blood alcohol concentration was 0.222 percent, almost three times the 0.08 limi at which an Illinois driver is presumed to be intoxicated.

It was because of this "very high" BAC, combined with Frerich's "poor driving" that evening, that the state did not actively ask the court for supervision, Bergstrom said.

"That being said, I do believe that the sentence of court supervision would be appropriate, so I'm not objecting to it. I think it was very out of character for Ms. Frerichs to engage in the actions she did on the day she was arrested," Bergstrom told Holliman. "I believe she is an important member of the community and there is no furthering of any justice by giving her a conviction over court supervision."

Lipton agreed, saying he had never had a client who was able to share the number of emails and notes that Frerich had received from people immediately after the DUI, "which is one of the things that shows she is a well-respected member of the community."

He emphasized the fact that Frerichs is a working single mother of an 8-year-old daughter who was recently seriously injured in an accident on the playground at school. Her child is currently immobile and depends on Frerichs not only for transportation to and from school, but also to a specialist in Chicago for treatment. He also pointed out Frerichs' lack of a criminal record and the fact that she had completed all of her DUI classes and attended the victim-impact panel before her sentencing. She's also going to counseling and has not used alcohol since her arrest.

"It would be a disservice to the community to impose a conviction," he said.

Frerichs took the opportunity to address the judge, saying she "can't express my embarrassment for myself, my family and friends" and calling herself an example of a "public failure." She said the arrest has affected the professional reputation she's worked hard to build.

"I know my actions were disgraceful. I know I could have harmed others. I'm ashamed in front of my daughter every day when I drive her to school with the Breathalyzer in my car," she said. "I'm ashamed because of those mistakes that are hard to repair, but I've admitted my guilt. The arrest was a startling example for those around me of what can happen when alcohol is consumed carelessly and a lack of judgment that can compromise public safety.

"I'm thankful no one was physically injured and there was no damage as a result of this accident. I'm grateful for all the kindness that's been shown to me since then," she added. "I've learned from this arrest and understand it is something that was a very bad decision in my life and I have a chance to make better decisions moving forward."

Before giving Frerichs 12 months of court supervision, Holliman warned her that she could only receive the sentence for a DUI once, but said it seems Frerichs has the "means and ways to avoid this situation."

"I'm sure you've probably replayed that scenario a million times in your own head, but probably as you've learned in the DUI education, women metabolize alcohol a lot differently than men," the judge said. "So that, along with stress ... I'm sure you'll remember that next time and find alternative ways of getting home if you decide to have a couple glasses of wine."

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wayward wrote on December 05, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Seems like court supervision is not unusual with first-time DUI cases.  If the defendants get the message and don't do it again, they can get on with their lives.  If not ... well, as the judge pointed out, court supervision with DUIs is a one-time deal.

rockwinkle wrote on December 05, 2016 at 6:12 pm
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 There's no way that a "couple glasses of wine" gave her .222 bac. Only a seasoned alcoholic can achieve that high of a concentration without becoming very, very ill.

rsp wrote on December 06, 2016 at 1:12 am

That's not true. And the test was given an hour after she was stopped so it's quite possible her level continued to rise during that time. Women metabilize alcohol differently than men and how much food she ate and when can all make a difference.

SaintClarence27 wrote on December 07, 2016 at 11:12 am

Even at 90 lbs on an empty stomach, she would have had to have at least 5 glasses of wine immediately prior to being stopped. So no.

Bra adamant wrote on December 05, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Must be nice to have connections. Had that been me, I'd be in jail. And I've NEVER even been charged with DUI, let alone anything else. Have friends who didn't get off anywhere NEAR that easy on a DUI, and lesser offenses. What a crock.

AltoonaSue wrote on December 05, 2016 at 7:12 pm

As someone who has lost friends and loved ones at the hands of drunk drivers, it's mystifying to me why judges tend to take this crime so lightly. I hope and pray that Ms. Frerichs has truly learned her lesson.

BruckJr wrote on December 05, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Should have sought sanctuary in Urbana.

Cuthbert J. Twillie wrote on December 05, 2016 at 8:12 pm

The special prosecutor was originally hired by Ms. Reitz.  The charge of a BAC over .15 is a non supervisory offense.  That is why the ticket was dismissed.   I would love to hear from non clouted folks who had the same set of circumstances who ended up with revocation.  


At the same time, I am confused.  Her ex husband is the State Treasurer.  Yet she says in court that she is the sole person responsible for her child.  Does that mean he does not take care of her child at all?

He emphasized the fact that Frerichs is a working single mother of an 8-year-old daughter who was recently seriously injured in an accident on the playground at school. Her child is currently immobile and depends on Frerichs not only for transportation to and from school, but also to a specialist in Chicago for treatment. He also pointed out Frerichs' lack of a criminal record and the fact that she had completed all of her DUI classes and attended the victim-impact panel before her sentencing.


This was was projected by me when it happened that this would occur.

There is one set of rules for the Ruling class and another for the Serfs.  I do hope that the position of the SA office is to now offer supervision to everyone with a clean driving record and a bac nearly 3x the legal limit.


But that is not going to happen.

wayward wrote on December 05, 2016 at 9:12 pm

Actually, special prosecutors are appointed by the judge, not "hired" by the state's attorney.

Local Yocal wrote on December 05, 2016 at 11:12 pm
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N-G reporter Nicole Lafond usually covers schools and school board stuff, so this is a switch for her to cover police and courts. Her sympathy is definitely with the defendant for never have we seen such detail given to a letter of remorse Frerichs displayed in her statement to the judge. 

It is good when the courts grant mercy to worthy candidates and no doubt Frerichs has been punished plenty just from The News-Gazette's blasting her case front page.

The question now is do "regular" citizens get the same amount of leniency on first-time, way-over-the-limit, crash-into-a-squad car DUI"s? Or is this a Julia Rietz/Mark Lipton Special where Rietz gives Lipton whatever he wants for his client? 

andrewscheinman wrote on December 06, 2016 at 10:12 am

On the one hand I'm glad that she's been given an opportunity to get clean.

On the other hand, and to echo the previous comments, what happens when a *regular* person is arrested ... does the court give special dispensation when the friends say how important the culprit is to the community?

And yes, "single mother" is hard to square with her ex husband's job, and as much as I feel compassion for her child having been hurt, is that something that figures in especially, given Frerichs income and ability to have someone else do pickup and dropoff?

I'm all for compassion, but it sure does seem like a have versus have not situation, and that's not the way the justice system is supposed to work.

rsp wrote on December 06, 2016 at 4:12 pm

This is not an unusual sentence for a first offense. People who have the money can sit with an attorney who will tell them what to do before they go to court and if they are smart they will do it. People who don't have money get a Public Defender who has little time and when they tell them to do the same things it may not have the same impact.

If they say the judge is going to order you to do these things you think you should wait so you will get credit, right? If you have already done them the judge is going to see it as you taking responsibility. The public defender's office is underfunded. They need more lawyers. I used one once for a traffic case and the first time I met her she said she had arranged a plea for me...seriously.

For those bringing up her being a single parent and her husband, etc. You really think she should lose custody or have her daughter punished in that way? Affect her ex-husband's job, etc.? This isn't a custody matter.

The only reason this is in the press is because she is a "public person". They handle cases just like this everyday in the same way but you don't post snide comments about the person's character or why they were drinking, etc. because they are cases about people like you.

khbdab wrote on December 06, 2016 at 6:12 pm

"I'm sure you've probably replayed that scenario a million times in your own head, but probably as you've learned in the DUI education, women metabolize alcohol a lot differently than men," the judge said. "So that, along with stress ... I'm sure you'll remember that next time and find alternative ways of getting home if you decide to have a couple glasses of wine." SERIOUSLY??? She should lose her license and spend time in jail. That is how you keep people from doing this again!

Casper01 wrote on December 07, 2016 at 10:12 am

First off for those of you saying this is the norm for first time offenders, this is false. This has everything to do with Frerichs being a public figure.

I'm speaking from my own personal experience. I recieved my FIRST DUI a little over 3 years ago. My BAC was no where near THREE TIMES over the limit. I was fully insured, I didn't hit anyone, I didn't kill anyone, I didn't flee the scene. In no way am I excusing the fact that I drove after having a few drinks but here is my point:

To this day I still haven't received my license. I went to the Victim Impact Panel($5), I completed all of my group counseling sessions (10 sessions at $40 each), I've had at least three evaluations, the most recent one $130 for not even 30 minutes. I've been denied once to have my license reinstated. I was finally granted a driving permit to drive to and from work this past March. I will go for yet another hearing at the DMV to try to get my license, once reinstated that's $500. My car insurance went up, not only that I have to have an SR-22 just to operate a vehicle. I was also on probation for 18 months. Not to mention lawyer fees ($2500) and court costs and fines ($3000).

I am a single parent, my kids depend on me for not only everyday needs but extra curricular activities as well. I have missed out on events that my kids are involved in due to the DUI and I have always been a very involved parent so this hurts. I HATE what has happened to me, I regret it. I've had to rely on public transporation, Ubers and family to get me back and forth. My life has been nothing more than an inconvenience ever since my incidient and I have definitely learned from the experience! 

So to say Frerichs recieved the normal sentence for first timers...I beg to differ.

andrewscheinman wrote on December 07, 2016 at 1:12 pm

I'd previously said that I find this a horrible miscarriage of justice in that an ordinary person wouldn't get the treatment that Frerichs got, at least if the news article accurately reflects the conversation between the judge, prosecutor and Frerich's lawyer.  In that regard I'm sure there was more said than what the writer quoted, but what the writer quoted was pretty noxious, in that it sure doesn't seem that little people get the same treatment, and that's a miscarriage of justice.  Normal people don't get bigwigs to say how important they are; do they get to have other little people attest to the court about their worth?  Does the court care?

Then there's the other thing that bothers, and that's Frerichs story, which is that she was at a business party where she had "two glasses of wine."  Do business parties at the Park usually go to 2am, which is when she was busted?  If she left the party around that time, and wasn't drinking alone, and had bloodshot eyes according to the policeman, wasn't there some OTHER partygoer who told her not to drive, or flat out stopped her?

And if it was two glasses of wine at a party, WHEN were those two glasses?  I can't imagine a party at the Park starting much after 8 ... that's 6 hours from 8 to 2 am, and two glasses of wine during THAT timeperiod would NOT result in 0.222 BAC an HOUR after arrest, i.e. say 7 hours after this party started.

Now the reason I bring all of that up is that contrition seems to be a key element of Frerich's sentence, and yet her story seems like a huge lie.  So how is likely lying to the court contrition?  What was this party she was attending, where were the other people?  Normally we might not care, but if she lied to the court, as a public figure isn't she even more accountable for what she says?  How can we believe her presumably sincere statement of reform if she lied about the whole incident?  How is a likely lie an acceptance of responsibility?




welive wrote on December 07, 2016 at 1:12 pm

for all that think this is unfair ok well then.I made the mistake of driving under the influence.I got court supervision as well.Thank you Bill May and the lawyer.Now I am a convicted felon class X in 96 for armed voilence.so what are they whinning about? the laws for duis are pretty set in stone now first time second time ect.No matter what you bac is.

ManBearPig wrote on December 07, 2016 at 6:12 pm

I tried to avoid commenting on this thread, but after reading the number of posts who think that Mrs. Frerich's received the "standard punishment" for first time offenders I can no longer bite my tongue.  

I am the less than proud recipient of a DUI in Chamaign County.  My BAC was nearly identical to that of Mrs. Frerich's.  I caused no accident and received no additional charges during my arrest.  I contacted 3 different lawyers while trying to navigate my way through a terrible time.  Each one told me that Champaign county, by principle, does not offer plea deals of court supervision.  I was told I would have to go through "open sentencing," a process where you plead your case and the judge decides your fate.

I received a "plea deal" offer of conditional discharge - less favorable than court suervision, better than probation.  My lawyer told me explicitly that there would be no plea deal for court supervision.  I had to roll the dice and hope for a miracle of court supervision from a judge having the best day of their life, or get probation from a judge having a bad day.  I took the plea of conditional discharge - a conviction of DUI.  I make "too much money" for a public defender, who surely would have got me the same deal and saved me $1500 at the same time.

Her money didn't get her out of this predicament.  Her status and position of "knowing people" helped her get the golden goose.  I don't even blame her.  The onus of this situation lies squarely on the shoulders of Judge Holliman and the "special prosecutor."  


Cliff Notes:  The general public does not get court supervision as a plea offer.  Those of you that think so need to talk to real people who have had DUI's.  Don't believe that "this is typical punishment for first time offenders."  This is the court system bending over backwards.  



Cuthbert J. Twillie wrote on December 07, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Thank you for your and another persons posting.


This was a Reitz special.  


One plea  for serfs


Another plea for the Royals


This County had a chance to change a month ago.  They did not, so you have no one to blame but yourselves.

ManBearPig wrote on December 08, 2016 at 11:12 am

I completely agree with your sentiment.  The "how can we help you" attitude of the judge and prosecuting attorney is despicable, and is a slap in the face of evey peasant who has gone through the DUI funnel in Champaign County.  They should both be ashamed of themselves for their blatant disregard of the standards that the court has previously established for "normal folk."   

kstyle wrote on December 09, 2016 at 1:12 pm

Actually if you read the article she didn't get a "plea deal" for court supervision.  She plead guilty and went to an open sentencing hearing just like you could have.  The prosecutor not objecting to court supervision at an open sentencing is different than a plea agreement.  The judge could have still given her a conviction and conditional discharge or probation.  I'm not saying her money and status didn't help her, it obviously did.  However your contention she got agreed court supervision offered to her and didn't have to chance an open sentencing is incorrect. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on December 08, 2016 at 8:12 am


I don't know what kind of triangulations this scumbag Laura Frerichs and her lawyer(s) pulled to get out from under a .22 BAC while hitting a police car but the Secretary of State gets their bite of the apple now. She'll be in for an eye opener when they tell her to send in her license plates off of her car(s)

It's rich white girl privilege with a severe case of affluenza 

Liz wrote on December 08, 2016 at 4:12 pm

This was a fair and very common punishment for a first time offender.  Those of you saying that she was treated any differently than anyone else needs to" knock the chip you have off your shoulders".  Another thing who in their right mind knowing they had been drinking and was pulled over would tell a police office exactly how much they had.  Come on people.  I have never had a DUI but we ALL know someone who has.  Just because she got probation she still will have a LOT of fines, classes and all the other stuff that goes along with it.  I'm sure she is very embarrased and has learned her lesson. 

ManBearPig wrote on December 09, 2016 at 6:12 am

Liz I have to respectfully disagree with you.  If you read my above comment you'll understand some of my sentiment.  I've been through these classes and talked to many other people who have been through the DUI process.

Some have gotten court supervision, many others have not.  I just really want to hammer in that this is NOT a typical deal.  The imaginary "chip on the shoulders" you speak of is caused by exactly this event. The miscarriage of justice in treating those in "positions of power and public eye" and those normal everyday folks differently.  Go to one of the classes, listen and talk to the people who have had DUI's and not received court supervision.  I think it would be an eye opener.  And just to clarify, she did not get probation.  Nor conditional discharge, she got court supervision.  The most ideal outcome with the least amount of punishment.

All of these people chirping in about this being a "normal and fair punishment" need to open their eyes and actually talk to real life people who have had DUI's.  The judge and states attorney really botched this in the mantra of "justice should be blind."   

fuddrules wrote on December 11, 2016 at 5:12 am

Another friend trying to come to the rescue.  

andrewscheinman wrote on December 09, 2016 at 8:12 am

"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others ..."

Mef wrote on December 10, 2016 at 9:12 am

For anyone saying, "She made a mistake." think about what a mistake is.

I forgot to do the dishes last night. Mistake.

I forgot to do my homework. Mistake.

I forgot to call my parents when I told my parents I'd call when I got home. Mistakes.

Nobody gets hurt. The world still goes on. No felonies were committed.

Those are the mistakes people make on a pretty regular basis. Most people don't drink enough alcohol at their place of employment until they are three times the legal limit. They then don't leave that place of employment blasted, get in a car and try to drive home. They also don't hit other vehicles, freak out and flee the scene of the accident and improperly using the driving lanes to do so. None of what she did that night was a mistake. That shouldn't have to be something you have to be ever told not do to.

It was bad choice after bad choice after bad choice. Given a different set of circumstances, a different time she left, a different route home, maybe she makes it home safe and sound and nobody knows she was ever wasted that night. Maybe instead the vehicle she did hit she speeding and paralyzes or kills the people inside. Luckily it turned out as minor as it did. Had it not been for very poor choice after very poor choice, luck didn't have to play a role in this.

I've heard her called a public figure in many comments, and honestly I've never heard her name before this story and will probably forget in weeks from now. I could care less if she's a public figure or not. I don't respect anyone that is caught for a DUI. She unnecessarily put the public at risk. No amount of I'm sorry" (which I'm not even sure she's publicly said) or community service or social programs would fix what could have happened that night had luck been different.

The legal system is supposed to be a conduit to protect society as a whole. Those who have committed crimes are to be adequately punished as to ensure they don't repeat the action or so that others think twice before they do the same thing. The court had their chance to do just that, and in many people's mind, the punishment did not fit the crime. Sad state of affairs, but such is reality. Remember that the next time you vote for who is supposed to represent the public's interests.

Let what happened here have some good. If you are thinking about drinking alcohol, be it at a bar, home, or, as some people do, at work, don't drive home. Call a cab, call an Uber, hell if you're at work, sleep it off. Don't get in a car and drive yourself home.

We can't change a judge's sentence that seemed to favor those with money and influence over justice for society. We can't change poor decision after poor decision that led to the judge having to make a decision on how harshly to punish those at fault. We can and are responsible for our own actions. Stop worrying so much about what should she or shouldn't she have gotten as a punishment. Look at what she did, and learn from it. Society, especially Champaign, needs people that want to make it better each day. Life is not about being better than anyone else. It's about being better than you were yesterday.