Driver charged in Scott's Law case pleads guilty, awaits decision on sentencing
A remorseful Joliet man Friday pleaded guilty to violating Scott's Law in connection with a 2021 crash that seriously injured a decorated state trooper from Lemont.
Angel Casillas, 23, entered his blind plea Friday just before the start of a sentencing hearing. In exchange, two other charges of aggravated reckless driving were dropped.
Casillas, who could face up to three years in prison, was charged after a Feb. 15, 2021, crash on I-55 near Route 30. Illinois State Trooper Brian Frank had stopped to assist in another crash at the location when Casillas struck the rear of his squad.
Will County Assistant State's Attorney Christine Vukmir said Casillas was traveling 86 mph in a 65-mph zone and never hit the brakes when he struck Frank's squad.
Frank, who remains minimally responsive and requires 24/7 care, attended Friday's hearing with his wife, Lauren, family members and his care team. Dozens of state troopers also packed the courtroom along with family and friends who wore "Frank Strong" T-shirts.
On Friday, Lauren Frank and other relatives detailed how Brian Frank's life has changed and that even simple tasks -- like eating, drinking, taking a shower or having a conversation -- remain out of his reach.
"My world went silent the moment that Brian was hit," Lauren Frank said. "He won't kiss me good night anymore. He won't be the passenger in the Jeep when I go get groceries tomorrow.
"I hope you never get a phone call like the one I got 900 days ago," she said.
Since the crash, Frank has been in and out of the hospital several times, enduring brain surgeries, pneumonia and other complications. In May, he was able to move into a home that had been modified to meet his medical needs, only to return to the hospital a few days later with pneumonia.
"The pain (Lauren) and Brian have experienced from this is not able to be measured," Will County Assistant State's Attorney Christine Vukmir said as she asked Will County Judge Amy Bertani-Tomczak to issue the maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Casilla's defense attorney Cosmo Tedone argued for probation, noting his client has never even had a speeding ticket. He added that Casillas had been struggling with his brother's suicide and other family issues at the time of the crash.
Tedone added that Casillas does not even remember how the crash occurred.
"If I could, I would switch places with Brian in a heartbeat," a tearful Casillas said during his statement Friday. "It pains me to know that because of my actions, his life is changed forever."
Casillas apologized to Frank's wife, Lauren, his family, friends and co-workers for his actions on that fateful day.
"I wish I could go back in time and change it," he said, adding that he will forever carry the guilt of his actions.
Though Lauren Frank said she appreciated Casillas' apology and the "humanity" in it, she believes a maximum sentence is necessary to help prevent future tragedies.
"If drivers knew that there were actual consequences for their actions that were significant, they would think about their driving," she said.
Bertani-Tomczak will issue her sentencing decision on Aug. 14.