Trooper rehab longer than trucker sentence

Updated 3/2/2015 9:25 AM

The attorney for trucker Renato Velasquez put it well: "This case has no winners. It was just a tragedy." But the wife of severely injured state trooper Douglas Balder put it even better: "Doug's recovery will be longer than this guy's jail time." Velasquez was found guilty Thursday of all but one of the charges against him after his semitrailer slammed into a disabled truck on I-88 near Aurora, killing a tollway worker from Wheeling and causing the blaze that engulfed Balder's squad car. Basically, Velasquez was convicted of driving while fatigued and putting in an illegal number of hours behind the wheel. His maximum sentence would be three years in prison, and most likely he'd serve only half of that. Meanwhile, Balder just returned to desk work for the state police after a year's recuperation -- and plenty more awaits him -- from 13 broken ribs, a broken left scapula and severe burns. The relative leniency of sentencing options has so upset prosecutors and state lawmakers they're looking to impose harsher penalties. If you're drunk and deemed responsible for a fatal crash, for instance, you can get up to 14 years in prison. Yes, driving fatigued perhaps sounds less egregious than driving drunk, but all the experts say it can be just as dangerous -- especially when, as one prosecutor put it, "a fatigued, tired, drowsy truck driver (is) hauling three 14,000 pound pieces of rolled steel."

As the COD turns


Just when you thought the drama at College of DuPage couldn't get more intense, along comes this from a Daily Herald endorsement session: With our video cameras rolling, candidate David Carlin shared a text message he got from Jim Nalepa, campaign chairman for a slate of three reform candidates. It read in part, "Get out of the race. When I get through with Dr. Breuder, anyone supporting him will look like they supported Hitler." Favorable public opinion hasn't exactly been raining down on college President Robert Breuder and his $768,000 buyout. But might this not strike some as unneeded piling on? One of the three candidates, at Carlin's urging, immediately distanced himself from the comment and decried trying to bully anyone out of the race. But Nalepa was unrepentant. His only regret, he told our Robert Sanchez the next day, was the public figure he picked, Hitler, to make his analogy.

It takes a village:

A story on Friday's front page was an intriguing tale by Melissa Silverberg and Katlyn Smith detailing a 31-year-old death investigation that had a link to the suburbs. In North Carolina, the remains of a young man were found, a bullet wound to his head. In his possession was a place mat that detailed his resume; one notation was Streamwood High School. But his identity never was determined, and investigators recently took a new look at the cold case. But how did we ever find out about such a story? Excellent teamwork, which often is at the core of our best efforts. A North Carolina newspaper wrote about the mystery, which was seen by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. That group passed it along to some places where the young man might have been, including the Streamwood Behavioral Health Care Center. Officials there tried to get the word out by using the Daily Herald's online self-posting feature. Editorial assistant Chris Gerke, one of many staffers who review such posts, took a look, and wisely decided this might worth some additional effort. She made sure the appropriate editors knew about the case.

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