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updated: 3/27/2013 1:50 PM

'Road rage' driver guilty of DUI in fatal Naperville crash

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  • Michael Moreno

      Michael Moreno

  • A small memorial was set up at the corner of Ogden Avenue and River Road in Naperville after motorcyclist Gerald Puglise was killed there last June.

      A small memorial was set up at the corner of Ogden Avenue and River Road in Naperville after motorcyclist Gerald Puglise was killed there last June.
    Paul Michna/Daily Herald file photo

 

A Plainfield man was convicted Wednesday of driving under the influence of drugs and leaving the scene of a fatal Naperville crash that prosecutors said was fueled by road rage.

Michael Moreno, 32, faces up to 29 years in prison after being found guilty by DuPage County Judge George Bakalis in the June 2012 death of 63-year-old Gerald Puglise of Lombard.

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"Justice has been served," the victim's stepson, Aldo Datoli, said after the verdict.

Puglise died of massive head injuries after his motorcycle slammed into Moreno's Infiniti M45 on Ogden Avenue at River Road during rush hour.

In a written decision, Bakalis said Moreno was "angry and upset" with another driver when he improperly turned into the path of the victim, who had the right of way.

"It was the defendant's driving (and) not the victim's that was the proximate cause of this accident," the judge said in his ruling.

The crash happened as Moreno chased a 16-year-old driver after a heated exchange in traffic. He continued to follow the car even as Puglise lie gravely injured in the intersection, prosecutors Joe Lindt and Demetri Demopoulos said.

Afterward, Moreno tested positive for cannabis and cocaine, and police found marijuana in his car, according to testimony.

Defense attorney Paul DeLuca said he will ask Bakalis to reconsider his ruling or grant a new trial because of varying witness accounts and because Puglise had alcohol and painkillers in his system at the time of the crash.

"I respectfully disagree with the court's ruling," DeLuca said. "I still think there's a question as to who actually caused the accident."

Relatives described Puglise as a loving family man with a passion for riding motorcycles. About a dozen members of his riding club were present for the verdict Wednesday.

"He had many friends and was a great father and a wonderful person," Datoli said.

Puglise's wife, Peggy Datoli, who was joined by a representative from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists in court, said she hopes Moreno goes to prison and the case draws attention to laws regarding driving under the influence of drugs.

"He shouldn't be allowed to do this to other people," she said.

Moreno, who returns to court April 22, faces seven to 29 years in prison because he can receive consecutive terms for aggravated DUI and aggravated leaving the scene of a fatal accident, prosecutors said. He would be eligible for probation if the defense can prove "extraordinary circumstances" warrant it, according to DeLuca, who said he will make that argument if the case proceeds to sentencing.

State's Attorney Bob Berlin called the case "heartbreaking" and "100 percent avoidable."

"While nothing can be done to bring Mr. Puglise back to those who loved him, perhaps today's guilty verdict will provide some measure of solace to those he left behind," he said.

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