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updated: 12/19/2012 5:13 PM

Cicero man gets 8 years in Oak Brook DUI crash

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  • Jose D. Rodriguez

    Jose D. Rodriguez


A Cicero man was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday after he was convicted in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman and two 6-year-old girls in Oak Brook last year as they drove home from seeing "The Sound of Music."

Jose D. Rodriguez, 26, must serve more than six years, or 85 percent of that sentence given by Judge George Bakalis. He has been in the DuPage County jail on $750,000 bond since the accident on Nov. 12, 2011, and will receive credit for time served, officials said.

Rodriguez pleaded guilty and was convicted in September on three counts of aggravated driving under the influence.

Rodriguez's attorney, Laura Mitacek, said she and her client plan to ask the judge to reconsider the sentence.

"I don't think that there are any winners here," Mitacek said. "As the judge indicated today, there are victims on both sides."

On the night of the crash, Rodriguez was northbound on York Road about 8:45 p.m. when his 2000 Jeep sped up, veered into southbound lanes and collided head-on with a sport utility vehicle in the area of Canterbury Lane.

The crash left 6-year-old Emily Walsh of Burr Ridge with a fractured skull, brain hemorrhaging and a torn spleen. Her friend, 6-year-old Patricia Bennett of Oak Brook, sustained a broken clavicle and cuts. Bennett's mother, Margaret Bennett, who was driving, had a "horribly fractured" right leg, her attorney said.

They were headed home from Drury Lane Theater in Oakbrook Terrace, where "The Sound of Music" was playing.

Rodriguez, who suffered a broken hip, and Bennett had to be extricated from the wreckage, prosecutors said.

Prosectors also said an eyewitness driving behind Rodriguez told police she didn't see him brake before the crash. They said police found 12 empty beer cans in Rodriguez's vehicle, which smelled of alcohol.

Rodriguez later registered a .137 blood-alcohol level. The legal threshold is .08.

Police determined Rodriguez left a shift at a McDonald's restaurant in Hinsdale about three hours before the accident, according to prosecutors.

In Cook County, Rodriguez still faces a civil suit filed against him in March. The 10-count complaint accuses him of negligence, failure to yield, driving at a dangerous speed, and driving while "severely intoxicated," among other claims.

It seeks unspecified damages of more than $50,000. Defense attorneys said the victims were left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills.

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