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updated: 3/15/2013 8:07 PM

DuPage judge hears closing arguments in fatal DUI trial

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  • Michael Moreno

      Michael Moreno

  • The intersection of River Road and Ogden Avenue in Naperville hosted a small memorial to Gerald Puglise after he was killed in a crash there last June.

      The intersection of River Road and Ogden Avenue in Naperville hosted a small memorial to Gerald Puglise after he was killed in a crash there last June.
    Paul Michna/Daily Herald file photo

 

A DuPage County judge said he will issue a verdict March 27 for a man accused of causing a fatal, drug-related crash in Naperville.

Michael Moreno, 32, of Plainfield, is charged with aggravated DUI, aggravated reckless driving and leaving the scene of the June 13, 2012, crash that killed 63-year-old Gerald Puglise of Lombard.

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In closing arguments Friday, prosecutors said Moreno was in a "fog of rage" and "driving like a maniac" when he made an improper left turn in front of Puglise's motorcycle at Ogden Avenue and River Road.

Moreno later tested positive for cocaine and marijuana -- but defense attorney Paul DeLuca argued the victim was legally impaired, too.

"Because of that, he was not driving safely," DeLuca said. "I think there's a real question as to who caused the accident."

The crash happened as Moreno chased after a 16-year-old driver, according to prosecutors. The motorists had been involved in a roadside confrontation moments earlier, and Moreno was "hellbent" on keeping up with the other car, Assistant State's Attorney Joe Lindt said.

Puglise died of massive head injuries after his motorcycle struck Moreno's Infiniti M45 as it "bulldozed" through the intersection, Lindt said. Afterward, Moreno flagged down a police officer and led him on a brief, erratic pursuit of the third vehicle but didn't mention his own involvement, according to testimony.

"The defendant was impaired by a fog of rage," Assistant State's Attorney Demetri Demopoulos said. "He was out of control."

But DeLuca disputed prosecutors' account, arguing witnesses gave varying details while police performed no reconstruction of the rush-hour crash. He said Puglise had a blood alcohol content of 0.08, as well as pain killers in his system, though prosecutors argued that wasn't relevant to whether Moreno is guilty of the charges.

"This is not a case about what was in the victim's system. It's about what the defendant did that afternoon," Lindt said.

Judge George Bakalis, who is presiding over the bench trial, said he would review notes and evidence and deliver a verdict later this month.

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