16th DUI conviction gets Rolling Meadows man 16 years in prison
A Rolling Meadows man was sentenced to 16 years in prison Wednesday for his 16th DUI, the highest number of drunken driving cases Rolling Meadows court officials have encountered, the judge said.
Christopher Clingingsmith pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI before Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo. A few feet away, his wife sat in the front row of the courtroom quietly crying.
"It goes without saying you have a serious drinking problem," said Cataldo referring to Clingingsmith's extensive background, which includes felony and misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1982 across at least 10 Illinois counties.
Clingingsmith must serve at least 50 percent of the sentence before he is eligible for parole. The sentence announced Wednesday was reached after a pre-trial conference involving attorneys and the judge.
The class X felony, reserved for offenders with six or more felony DUI convictions, could have resulted in a sentence of up to 30 years for Clingingsmith, 52.
Clingingsmith was arrested after he struck a party bus in Des Plaines on June 7, 2017, and left the scene. Arrested a short time later, he told police he had seven beers before driving, prosecutors said. No one was seriously hurt.
Cataldo sentenced Clingingsmith to 15 years in prison for being under the influence when he struck the party bus and three years for driving on a suspended or revoked license. Cataldo ordered the sentences be served concurrently.
Cataldo also sentenced Clingingsmith to another year, to be served consecutively, for driving on a revoked or suspended license on March 17, when he was stopped by Arlington Heights police.
Since then, he has been held without bond in Cook County jail. Clingingsmith received credit for 50 days he spent in custody following his 2017 and 2018 arrests.
Court records show Clingingsmith received seven misdemeanor DUI convictions between 1982 and 1992. During his bond hearing last year, prosecutors noted felony DUI convictions from 1993, 1997, 2002 and 2007. A 1999 DUI conviction was reversed on appeal, prosecutors said.
Until Wednesday, his most recent felony DUI convictions were three in a single year in Will County, for which Clingingsmith served five years and two months in prison, Illinois Department of Corrections records indicate. Released in 2012, he has had no convictions since then, records show.
In total, he has spent 15 years, five months and eight days in Illinois custody for sentences that ranged from one to seven years.
Although Clingingsmith did not speak during Wednesday's hearing, his attorney Sam Amirante said he was "very, very contrite." Amirante also referenced his client's unspecified medical problems but did not elaborate.
"Hopefully, while you're in the penitentiary you'll seek some help," Cataldo said.
As sheriff's deputies prepared to lead him back to his holding cell, Clingingsmith turned to his wife and told her he loved her.
"You'll be able to see me in a month," he told her.
"I'll be there," she said.