13 years for DUI crash that killed girl, 9, hurt two in downtown Aurora
An Aurora man was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in prison for driving drunk and high and speeding 50 miles over the limit when he crashed into a minivan in the city's downtown, killing a 9-year-old girl and injuring two of her friends.
Anthony S. Potochney, 26, of the 900 block of North Avenue, pleaded guilty last year to three counts of aggravated DUI in the death of Katelyn Jonak on Oct. 7, 2016, and leaving the scene of a crash, also a felony, and let Kane County Judge Linda Abrahamson determine his sentence.
"This case is sad at every level," Abrahamson said, after listening to victim impact statements from Katelyn's parents. "It's a human tragedy of immense proportion."
According to authorities, Potochney was going 85 miles per hour in the wrong lane of the 500 block of North Broadway Avenue in downtown Aurora when he slammed into a minivan being driven by Tonia Jonak. After the crash, Potochney ran off and officers testified he smelled of alcohol and marijuana smoke and had marijuana in his front pocket when caught.
Paramedics took Katelyn to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Police had to get a search warrant to get a blood sample from Potochney to get his blood-alcohol concentration, which was .193 several hours after the crash.
Tonia Jonak described driving Katelyn and her two friends back from practice for the play "Elf" on a Friday night and hearing their playful rendition of one of the songs turn to screams of terror when Potochney's 2003 Cadillac Deville hit them.
"I hear that scream over and over. I hear it so perfectly and there's nothing I can do to change it," Tonia Jonak said, noting that the image of her daughter "unconscious, head down, eyes closed" after the crash is burned in her memory.
"Her death, this nightmare -- all of this was preventable," Tonia Jonak told Potochney. "She did not die of a disease."
John Jonak described how Katelyn's death affected her younger brother and sister. Jonak said Katelyn was kind, smart and strong and had a great future.
"We're trying to navigate this new normal," John Jonak said. "I feel like (Katelyn's siblings) were cheated. The lesson that life is unfair has never been more evident."
Kane County First Assistant State's Attorney Jody Gleason argued for a 15-year term; Assistant Public Defender Ron Dolak argued for probation or the minimum three years of prison, saying Potochney had an abusive childhood and below average intelligence and suffers from bipolar mental illness.
Potochney gave a rambling statement in which he apologized, said God has forgiven him and he prays for everyone.
"I made the worst mistake I will ever make," he said. "I have come to realize I was dealing with a curse that was on my family. I was abused as a child -- physically, mentally, sexually."
Potochney will be in prison about nine years. Under state law, Potochney must serve 85 percent of his entire sentence, or about 10 years, eight months. He also gets credit for nearly a year and a half served at the Kane County jail while the case was pending.