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DUI charge dropped against driver in bicyclist's death

Morris Daily Herald: DUI charge dropped against driver in bicyclist’s death

By Jo Ann Hustis - jhustis@morrisdailyherald.com

An April bench trial is set on a local motorist charged in the fatal bicycle incident in downtown Morris last November.

Dale W. Smith, 36, of Jacqueline Street, in unincorporated Morris, will be tried for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident in the death of William R. Posey, 32, who lived at 630 E. Jefferson St.

A second citation charging Smith with driving under the influence is being dismissed, Grundy County State’s Attorney Sheldon Sobol noted.

“We knew it was questionable at the time,” Sobol said Monday of the citation. “However, there clearly was alcohol on his breath.”

Blood-alcohol test results show readings for Smith of .053 taken after the accident, and .052 while at the scene. In Illinois, a blood-alcohol reading of .08 is considered intoxicated.

“Our burden is to prove he was impaired from alcohol,” Sobol said. “At a reading of .08, a person is presumed to be impaired under the law. We don’t have the evidence of impairment we would need to prove Smith guilty of DUI beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Without alcohol present in the bloodstream or breath, investigators look for evidence of bad driving, which witnesses in this case did not provide, the state’s attorney noted.

“Like somebody weaving in and out of traffic, cutting or jumping curbs and such,” Sobol said. “Witnesses said a man on a bicycle had pulled out in front. A couple witnesses said the bicycle had no warning indicators, and it was dark.”

The incident happened about 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 22, on Illinois 47, at Jefferson Street. Smith was driving south alone on Illinois 47 in a pickup truck. Posey, also alone and wearing dark clothing, was riding his bicycle from the west to the east on Jefferson Street.

There are no street lights at the Jefferson Street intersection, which is posted with stop signs. The police report indicated no skid marks at the scene.

Smith’s attorney, Gary Garretson of Morris, noted Tuesday he thought it appropriate the state’s attorney’s office dismissed the DUI citation.

“I know there were comments made in the newspaper by a number of people — presumptions of guilt regarding Mr. Smith because he had something to drink, and there was a death,” Garretson said.

“These were presumptions of guilt, and not the truth. I think the state’s attorney is very responsible to recognize that.”

Garretson said all the evidence indicated Smith cooperated with authorities.

“And told the truth about what he drank. He clearly was not intoxicated,” Garretson noted.
Other comments posted indicated Smith did not apologize to the Posey family.

“You can’t comment when criminal charges are made,” said Garretson. “I advised Mr. Smith not to comment.”

On the remaining citation, Garretson believes witnesses at the bench trial will show it virtually impossible to reduce speed before the impact.

“Mr. Posey was riding his bicycle on Jefferson Street, going the wrong way, coming from the west, crossing the intersection on a very dark night, and wearing dark clothes. He was in a situation where any reasonable person who knew the layout of Morris streets would not have any expectation of someone coming from,” Garretson said.

“Without stopping, he drove directly across the intersection. Mr. Posey was just missed by another family northbound, and drove in front of Mr. Smith, who was traveling the speed limit, was on his way home, and had no way of responding in a reasonable fashion to Mr. Posey being there.”

Garretson said: “Unfortunately, Mr. Posey was severely intoxicated himself, and had no regard for his own safety.”

Grundy County Coroner John Callahan reported earlier that toxicology testing determined Posey’s blood alcohol level was at .223 at the time of the collision.

“Mr. Smith is very sorry Mr. Posey died, and he has to live with it the rest of his life,” Garretson added.

“He wishes the Posey family well, that they can evolve from the loss, and hopes their lives are not ruined. It’s had a major impact on him, and he has to live every day with it.”