Split verdict in Hoffman Estates street-racing case
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The surviving driver of a high-speed race that ended in an explosive crash in which two others were killed was convicted Thursday of aggravated street racing.
Cook County sheriff's deputies took Timothy Salvesen, 39, of Bartlett, into custody as his wife and mother sobbed from the gallery of the Rolling Meadows courtroom. The six-man, six-woman jury acquitted Salvesen of the more serious charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
Salvesen could face up to 12 years in prison. He could also receive probation, which defense attorney Dennis Berkson said he will request when Salvesen is sentenced, perhaps as early as Nov. 7, his next court date.
"He's not a career criminal," said Berkson of his client, a certified public accountant who served four years in the Marine Corps.
Berkson insisted throughout the three-day trial that his client had nothing to do with the accident that claimed the life of Migdalia Bloch, 62, of Hoffman Estates, who was killed when the Jaguar driven by 32-year-old Joseph Paliokaitis of North Aurora careened into her Hyundai Tiburon and burst into flames of Bartlett and Golf roads on Jan. 27, 2011. Paliokaitis, who was ejected from his vehicle, also died.
The blame for this tragedy rested with Paliokaitis, Berkson said.
"Joseph Paliokaitis decided on his own to drive into an oncoming lane at a high rate of speed," he said.
Berkson reminded jurors that two prosecution witnesses who testified they observed the men racing — including one who used his cellphone to photograph Salvesen's license plate when Salvesen and Paliokaitis were stopped at a traffic light at Barrington and Golf roads — did not see the crash occur.
Berkson also pointed out what he called a missing piece in the testimony of prosecution witness Nycol Criss. She testified that two cars going about 100 mph flanked the van she was driving west on Golf Road at the point where two lanes merge into one. Yet, Berkson pointed out, she could not identify the make, model or even color of either car.
"She can't tell you the color. Is that reasonable doubt? Of course it is," Berkson said.
"This whole thing happens like that," said Berkson, snapping his fingers. "No one can tell you where my client was and what he saw."
Berkson also recalled testimony from Bartlett police officer Tammy Schultz who said Salvesen told her — some 90 minutes after the crash — that he may have witnessed the accident but that he wasn't involved in it.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Clarke told the jury before deliberations began that because Salvesen engaged in street racing he was also responsible for the accident even though he had nothing to do with the collision, adding "you don't have to be a NASCAR driver to understand the inherent risks of street racing."
Clarke told jurors Salvesen and Paliokaitis kept "upping the ante" in the high-speed race prosecutors say began near Knollwood Drive and continued west on Golf Road. Several witnesses testified they saw the men revving their engines, accelerating quickly at stoplights and driving at high speeds.
"If Paliokaitis and the defendant weren't racing out there this never would have happened. ... This victim never would have lost her life if it weren't for their selfish actions," said Clarke, pointing out "if Mr. Paliokaitis was alive today, make no mistake, he'd be sitting right here at the (defendant's) table next to Timothy Salvesen."
Clarke suggested to jurors that Salvesen's decision not to stop after the crash and to continue to his home showed "consciousness of guilt." "He knew what he did and it was time to get out of there," Clarke said.
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