'So sorry about what happened'

'So sorry about what happened'

URBANA — A Rantoul man is headed to prison in connection with a 2015 drunken driving accident that left a young teen on a bicycle severely injured.

Juan Gaspar Miguel-Juan, 37, was sentenced Monday by Judge Adam Dill to 10 years in the Department of Corrections.

Miguel-Juan pleaded guilty in August to aggravated driving under the influence on Sept. 26, 2015, in connection with the accident on County Road 1700 E near the entrance to Brookhill Golf Course.

The bicyclist he struck, Triston Smith of Rantoul, was 12 at the time. Now 14, he suffered multiple injuries including a broken pelvis, two broken legs, a concussion, spleen damage and severe facial trauma.

Given an opportunity to speak before he was sentenced, Miguel-Juan apologized to the family and said he never intended what happened.

"I am so sorry about what happened," he said.

At the time of his arrest, Miguel-Juan had a blood alcohol level of 0.15, nearly twice the legal intoxication limit under Illinois law.

Miguel-Juan wasn't promised anything by the state's attorney's office in exchange for his guilty plea. Aggravated DUI is a class 4 felony punishable by 1-12 years in prison.

Triston Smith's grandmother and guardian, Freda Stewart, recalled arriving at the accident scene and finding Triston in the road with "blood everywhere."

She also described in vivid detail the events following the accident, which included being told initially at Carle that Triston would need a leg amputation, followed by her refusal to allow that and the airlift transport to Peoria that followed.

After Triston was released from the hospital, she said, "it was a horrible trip home. He cried most of the way."

Triston couldn't sleep in a bed at first and had to sleep in a recliner, and he was up 25 times his first night home, she said.

Triston is still coping with ill effects from the accident, including memory issues and a limp, Stewart said.

The maximum prison sentence for Miguel-Juan isn't enough, she contended.

"This man acted with no remorse, running from his crime while we were left with this tragedy," Stewart said.

Assistant State's Attorney William Lynch said Miguel-Juan is the father of five children and appeared to be employed seasonally, but he also said the court had a lot of aggravating factors to consider.

In asking for Miguel-Juan to be sentenced to 10 years in prison, Lynch said this wasn't the defendant's first alcohol-related arrest, that he was driving without a driver's license on the day of the accident, that he has a very low potential for rehabilitation, and prison time is necessary to protect the public.

"He's caused a great deal of pain with his action and a great amount of damage," Lynch said.

Questioned by Assistant Public Defender George Vargas, Miguel-Juan offered an explanation for why he failed to appear in court in October 2015 and didn't return until after he was found in Alabama this past March.

Someone paid his bond and offered him a chance to work off the debt out-of-state, promising to bring him back for his court date but later refused to bring him back to Champaign County, he said.

Asked why he didn't return to Illinois for so long, he said, "I didn't have any money to come."

Dill said he read Stewart's victim impact statement several times, and among several factors he found troubling about Miguel-Juan's conduct was the fact that he left the scene after striking Triston, "in complete disregard for this young man's well-being."

"I strongly believe society needs protection from Mr. Miguel-Juan at this time of his life," Dill said.

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map89 wrote on September 26, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Wonder if this criminal will be deported after he serves his time?