"I hope some day the Adamson family can forgive me a little bit so I can live in peace."
TUSCOLA - A judge in Douglas County Monday acknowledged that the prison sentence he gave a Decatur man for killing another man while driving drunk would do little to deter others.
Still, Judge Dan Flannell said Edgar Maza needed a "significant sentence to provide society with its retribution" for taking the life of Harold "Tony" Adamson, 47, of Atwood, last fall.
"That's the pure punishment aspect of sentencing," said Flannell. "Regardless of what sentence, people will still drive drunk. The public has got to know if you do this, you are not going to walk way unscathed. You are going to suffer."
Maza, 29, will have to serve about 7-1/2 years of the nine-year sentence that Flannell imposed for aggravated driving under the influence. He was given credit for 311 days already served in the Douglas County Jail.
The sentence was one year less than Assistant Douglas County State's Attorney David Deschler had sought for Maza and several years more than Maza's attorney, David Massey of Decatur, had hoped for.
Maza pleaded guilty in July to the charge in connection with the Oct. 10 crash on U.S. 36 near Atwood that killed Mr. Adamson. He could have received up to 14 years in prison but Deschler agreed to cap his recommendation at 10.
Tracey Lucas of Atwood testified she was driving with her four children about 11:50 p.m. when a sport utility vehicle came up close behind her and passed her very quickly, staying in the passing lane for quite a distance before passing a semi that was in front of her.
She started to cry as she recalled seeing pieces of red glass and skid marks in the road, then the smoking SUV on its passenger side.
Illinois State Trooper Tyler Vandeventer testified when he arrived, he saw Mr. Adamson's small motorcycle in a ditch and Mr. Adamson, deceased, next to it. He said Maza smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and did not perform well on field sobriety tests. His blood alcohol level, measured at a hospital, was 0.132 percent, Vandeventer said. The state standard at which a driver is presumed to be intoxicated is 0.08.
Sgt. Ryan Fuoss, an accident reconstruction specialist for the Illinois State Police, said the so-called "black box" for Maza's air bags which deployed put Maza's speed seconds before the crash at 107 mph.
Vandeventer said he learned that Maza had been drinking in Decatur after work and was en route to Tuscola to visit his girlfriend.
"What he did was so reckless," Marina Fleener, sister to Mr. Adamson, said to the judge as she read aloud her victim impact statement. "It is difficult for my family to see this as an accident."
The Atwood woman said her brother was a "good kid and a hard worker ... with a fantastic boisterous laugh that everyone loved."
Maza apologized to the Adamson family and his own in Ecuador.
"I hope some day the Adamson family can forgive me a little bit so I can live in peace," he said.
"I don't claim to be a perfect person. However, I can only plead to your sense of fairness," Maza told the judge.
Massey has presented testimony from friends of Maza who said Maza is from a large family in Ecuador that is quite poor and relies on him for support from the income he made at a Decatur restaurant.
Massey also noted that even though his client was not licensed to drive in Illinois, he still registered and insured his vehicle. His only prior convictions were for no valid license in 2006 and 2011.
Deschler said there was nothing to suggest that Maza might not repeat his behavior and that he would get the "second chance" that his supporters asked for when he is released from prison.
"Mr. Adamson is not going to get a second chance," said Deschler, calling the suggestion "irksome to my sensibilities."
Massey argued that Maza's speed "was the main culprit here."
"The alcohol didn't help. It fueled the speed," he said, calling Maza's actions out of character.
"He didn't set out from Decatur to run down some poor guy on his motorcycle. It got out of control very quickly," Massey said.
Flannell said if Maza had hit Mr. Adamson while driving closer to 55 mph, the sentencing recommendation would have been different.
"But 107 mph changes the character of this case drastically," he said. "When you consciously choose to drive at night at 107 mph and you are double the limit (for recognized intoxication), it is an inevitable consequence of a bad choice."
In addition to $1,150 in fines and fees, Maza was ordered to make restitution to Mr. Adamson's family of $11,253 for his funeral expenses and the cost of settling his estate.