A former youth corrections officer faces up to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty Thursday to charges stemming from an October 2008 crash that killed a St. Charles man.
Reginald Hearon, 50, of the 3500 block of Boyer Lane, Plano, pleaded guilty at a hearing in Kane County to one count each of aggravated driving under the influence and reckless homicide in exchange for having additional charges dismissed.
Prosecutors said Hearon was running late for his job as a corrections officer at the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles when his 1997 Ford Econoline van collided with an oncoming vehicle at 5:15 a.m. Oct 2, 2008, killing 53-year-old Craig Smith. Hearon later tested positive for alcohol, codeine and morphine, authorities said.
Assistant State's Attorney Nemura Pencyla said Hearon had previously been reprimanded for tardiness at work and, as a result, had to arrive 15 minutes early. He said Hearon's speeding van slammed into the driver's side of Smith's sport utility vehicle at a minimum of 53 mph as Hearon tried to pass several vehicles in a no-passing zone on Fabyan Parkway in Blackberry Township.
"By his own admission, the vehicles in front of him were not traveling fast enough," Pencyla said. "He had roll call in 15 minutes and was running late."
Pencyla said witnesses described a "big explosion" after seeing Smith's headlights appear over the top of an incline that Hearon was approaching. He said the impact sent Hearon's van skidding nearly 100 feet on one side before it came to rest upside down.
Hearon, who registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.083, later told investigators he had consumed two vodka drinks about 4:30 p.m. the day before, Pencyla said.
Relatives of Smith, a married father of four, were in the courtroom Thursday to see Hearon plead guilty. His widow later declined to speak with the media.
Hearon also declined to comment as he left court. Although state statute calls for a mandatory prison term of three to 14 years in prison for aggravated DUI involving death, Hearon's attorney, Richard Irvin, said he will argue his client should be spared prison time under a provision in the law that allows exceptions for "extraordinary circumstances."
"I think the circumstances here are extraordinary," he said, without elaborating.
Irvin, who has asked Judge T. Jordan Gallagher to wait until after Thanksgiving for sentencing, said Hearon no longer is a corrections officer.
Prosecutors sought to have Hearon's bond revoked, but Gallagher said he would remain on electronic home monitoring until sentencing, tentatively set for Nov. 17.
"I expect Mr. Hearon to cooperate with the PSI (pre-sentence investigation)," Gallagher said. "If I get any indication he's not, I will certainly reconsider."