Stroger Hospital executive Robert Vais was sentenced to 100 days in prison for fatally striking a young chef who was biking home from work on December 7, 2013. Vais was driving home drunk from a Christmas party.
During an emotional sentencing hearing last month, Vais tearfully apologized for the death of 28-year-old Hector Avalos. Avalos’ mother, Ingrid Cossio, cried on the witness stand, explaining to the full courtroom how she wanted to die after her son’s death. “[Vais] needs to face the consequences,” she said. “He didn’t just kill my son. He killed me too.”
Vais, now 56, had no prior arrests or even traffic tickets at the time of the 2013 incident. His sentence could have ranged from probation to 14 years in prison. He pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated DUI in September and was sentenced in the November hearing.
On the night of the incident, Avalos was riding his bike west on Ogden Avenue to his downtown Chicago home after a shift at the El Hefe Super Macho Taqueria. He emerged from a viaduct near Rockwell Street when Vais’ white minivan hit him from behind, according to court testimony. Avalos was wearing dark clothing, and the lighting was dim. The incident fractured his skull, left leg, and two ribs. He died shortly thereafter.
Vais identified himself as the driver immediately after the accident, the officer testified, and continually asked how Avalos was doing. At the police station, Vais took a Breathalyzer test, which measured a blood alcohol level of .118, well above the .08 legal limit.
At the hearing, Vais’ friends and family testified that Vais is a kind and giving person and a married father of two. John Morales, who also works at Stroger Hospital, told the judge that Vais was a “man of deep conviction” and will undoubtedly “suffer for this tragedy for the rest of his life.” Vais’ attorney echoed this sentiment, explaining that Vais’ “remorse and anxiety are palpable.”
The prosecutors, however, argued that Vais deserves a prison sentence. State Attorney Shawn Concannon said this case could send a strong message that it’s not acceptable to drink and drive.
Judge Nicholas Ford said that in reaching his sentence, he considered Vais’ lack of criminal record, the fact that he didn’t flee from the scene, and that he had a good chance of reintegrating successfully back into society.
In choosing the 100-day sentence, Judge Ford also acknowledged both Vais’ intense feelings of remorse as well as Avalos’s family’s severe grief.
Avalos’ mother said she hopes Vais “takes advantage” of the “new beginning” he was given.
If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses. To learn more and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.
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Illinois Affirms Defendant’s DUI Conviction Despite Blood-Alcohol Level Below Legal Limit, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, November 2, 2015.
Illinois Supreme Court Finds Implied Consent Law Unconstitutional As Applied, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blawg, October 6, 2015.