Former UI student gets 2 weeks jail, home detention in Campustown DUI

Former UI student gets 2 weeks jail, home detention in Campustown DUI

URBANA — A 25-year-old former University of Illinois student from South Korea who expressed remorse for a drunken-driving accident on Green Street last year will spend 14 days in the Champaign County Jail and then serve the rest of his 150-day sentence under electronic home detention.

"I know this is all on me," Seonghyun Lee said after pleading guilty Friday to aggravated driving under the influence.

Lee faced that charge in connection with an October 2017 accident in which 20-year-old Makena Brillhart of Savoy was injured while crossing Green Street in the middle of a block with a group of friends.

Lee was poised to plead guilty last month as part of a plea deal, but the case was continued after Judge Adam Dill questioned plans to allow him to serve his sentence under home monitoring.

The negotiated plea went forward Friday, leaving the question of how Lee would serve his jail sentence up to the judge.

Dill defined a distinction between "no objection" from the state's attorney's office to electronic home detention and — as was the case with Lee — the office not taking a position on it — which Dill said then made it his decision.

Lee's attorney, Tom Bruno, offered 14 letters from Lee's family members and friends who wrote on his behalf and then called to testify about the accident and himself.

Lee said he recalled driving home on Green when he saw a group of girls on the road ahead. He swerved to try to avoid hitting them but wasn't able to avoid hitting the last girl, Brillhart.

Lee said he first came to the U.S. at age 13 and moved to Champaign-Urbana a year later to live with his aunt and uncle. He went to Judah Christian School, Champaign Central High School for a year, then to the High School of St. Thomas More until he graduated.

He returned home to South Korea for a time to serve in the military but came back to Champaign-Urbana to go to the University of Illinois to major in environmental studies, hoping to put his degree to work at his father's company in Korea, he said.

After the accident, the UI wasn't affordable for him, Lee said, so he switched to Parkland College.

Bruno said home detention is an option that allows people to keep their jobs, remain in school and continue their family obligations and ultimately saves taxpayers money. Those on home detention are allowed out of their homes only to go to work or school or to a doctor's appointment, he said.

"It's not a vacation," Bruno said.

His client doesn't have a prior record, and evidence has shown he is "deeply remorseful," Bruno said.

Terms of the plea deal also call for Lee to serve 30 months on probation, pay a $2,000 fine and perform 150 hours of public-service work. He will get credit on his jail sentence for two days he already served, but the days will be subtracted from his home monitoring rather than time in jail, Dill said.

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