Geneva man convicted in fatal Naperville DUI found dead

  • Michael Szot in May told Geneva High School students his story of driving drunk and high in 2014 -- actions that led to the death of two of his friends in Naperville.

    Michael Szot in May told Geneva High School students his story of driving drunk and high in 2014 -- actions that led to the death of two of his friends in Naperville. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 6/17/2016 7:51 PM

Michael Szot of Geneva received what many people thought was a big break in March: He wasn't sent to prison for driving drunk and high, causing a car crash that killed two of his friends.

Prosecutors asked for 20 years, but responding to pleas from the friends' families, Szot was sentenced to one year in a DuPage County jail work-release program that enabled him to attend work and school, as long as he didn't use alcohol or drugs.

 

Thursday night, Szot, 23, died while out on release.

Court records show he failed at least one of his court-ordered drug tests in May, two days before giving a speech to Geneva High School students about how "one bad decision" to drink and smoke pot before driving ruined his life and ended the lives of two close friends.

Workers at the Todd Library at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove found Szot, unresponsive, about 7:15 p.m. Thursday, according to college spokesman Amanda Geist. Szot was taken to Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora, where he was pronounced dead. Szot was taking a class at Waubonsee, Geist said.

An autopsy performed Friday did not show any obvious signs of injury, said Kane County Coroner Rob Russell, so he will wait for the results of toxicology and tissue tests before determining how Szot died.

The DUI case

Szot pleaded guilty in August 2015 to aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol. He had been drinking and smoking pot one night in July 2014 in Naperville, first at a party and then at a bar, with two friends. He overshot a turn while heading west on Aurora Avenue, near downtown Naperville, crashing his car into Quarry Lake. Szot escaped from the car, but his friends drowned.

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DuPage County Judge Brian Telander, citing "extraordinary circumstances," such as Szot's otherwise clean record and the heartfelt pleas for mercy from his friends' families, sentenced Szot to a year in jail and community service.

Telander could not be reached for comment Friday. Also, calls to Szot's attorney, Jeff Fawell, and the parents of the two drowning victims were not returned.

Court records also show Szot was allowed to leave jail every day of the week, generally for 10 hours, to attend classes and a job he held at a Best Buy store in Geneva. He was studying chemical engineering at University of Illinois/Chicago, records showed.

Twice in May, he was allowed out to give speeches to teenagers, at St. Charles East and Geneva high schools, about impaired driving. He was invited to do so by Kane County judges Clint Hull and Susan Clancy Boles, who talk to teen groups about such topics.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Boy, how sad," Hull said when told of Szot's death. "We were going to work with him to set up (speaking dates) this fall."

At the May 12 Geneva assembly, Szot, a 2011 graduate of the school, somberly told juniors and seniors of the fatal consequences of a decision he made the summer before going to college: to start drinking alcohol.

"You can be in the middle of a decision that you don't think is that big," he warned them. "And doing it a second time was a lot easier."

The former president of the school's Students Against Destructive Decisions group subsequently started smoking pot, too.

He was celebrating the halfway point of a valued internship when the car crash occurred, he said.

Drug tests

Under the terms of his sentence, Szot was subject to random urine drug tests.

According to motions filed by prosecutors, he failed to report for a drug test May 9. And a May 10 drug test came back positive for opiates, which can include mostly pain-relieving substances such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, heroin, codeine, methadone and mepereidne.

The results of a drug test taken June 7 "came back abnormal, which renders the results inconclusive."

Szot was due to appear in court June 28.

DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin declined to comment.

Szot's mother, who attended the Geneva presentation, could not be reached Friday.

Waubonsee Community College's police are investigating the death.

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