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High Court denies permission to appeal Vasquez sentence


Sandra Vasquez

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Vasquez case timeline

Feb. 11, 2007 — Sandra Vasquez, driving eight teenagers home from a party, veers off Route 31 in Oswego and hits a utility pole. Five of the teens die in the crash. Three others are severely injured.

June 21, 2010 — Jury selection begins, as Vasquez faces multiple charges of reckless homicide and aggravated drunken driving.

June 30, 2010 — Kendall County jury finds Vasquez guilty of 10 counts of aggravated drunken driving leading to death, six counts of aggravated drunken driving causing great bodily harm, and five counts of reckless homicide.

Aug. 27, 2010 — Judge Clint Hull sentences Vasquez to 15 years in prison.

May 14, 2012 — Vasquez’s attorney Kathleen Colton appeals the 15-year sentence, citing it as excessive.

June 6, 2012 — Appellate court upholds Vasquez’s 15-year sentence.

June 29, 2012 — Colton asks Illinois Supreme Court for permission to appeal.

Sept. 28, 2012 — Illinois Supreme Court denies permission to appeal request.

Updated: November 1, 2012 6:36AM

In what she described as “a curtly worded letter” from the Illinois Supreme Court that arrived in the mail Friday, defense attorney Kathleen Colton said her petition for permission to appeal the sentence of Sandra Vasquez was denied.

Vasquez, 29, of Aurora, is serving a 15-year prison term for being the driver in a crash that killed five Oswego teens in February 2007.

Colton had turned to the Supreme Court for permission to appeal after the 2nd District Appellate Court in Elgin upheld Vasquez’s prison sentence on June 6.

Filing the petition was “the longest of long shots,” but “something I just had to do for her,” Colton said at the time.

About one in 10 cases that are petitioned to the Supreme Court get to file written briefs. Of those, about one in 50 actually argue in front of the court, Colton said.

Even though the defense attorney knew her chances were small, she was disappointed when she received notification.

“You can tell I’m not too happy,” Colton said, adding that she would notify her client and the Vasquez family that their options have run out.

Vasquez was sentenced in August 2010 after being convicted of aggravated DUI and reckless homicide.

The mother of two small children, Vasquez was driving a car filled with eight teenagers when it veered off the road on Route 31 in Oswego and hit a utility pole. Five teens died in the crash: Matthew Frank, 17; Katherine Merkel, 14; Tiffany Urso, 16; Jessica Nutoni, 15; and James McGee, 14.

Kendall County Judge Clint Hull sentenced Vasquez to 15 years. She has to serve at least 85 percent of that sentence.

First in Kendall County court and then again at the appellate court, defense attorneys argued that Vasquez should get probation under the state’s “extraordinary circumstances” provision. Defendants in reckless homicide cases can receive probation if a judge finds extraordinary circumstances. But whether those circumstances apply to the person, the crime or both — and what merits “extraordinary” — has been the crux of Colton’s post-conviction arguments.

Colton had pointed out Vasquez has two young children, virtually no criminal history and was trying to help the eight teens — many who were drunk or high — get home from a party. But without a clear definition for extraordinary circumstances, Colton argued it was impossible to make a strong case.

“Extraordinary circumstances are, quite simply, those that are not ordinary,” Judge Ann Jorgensen wrote in the appellate court’s decision. “The phrase is sufficiently clear so that persons of common intelligence are not required to guess at its meaning.”

Vasquez, who is imprisoned at the Lincoln Correctional Center, has 11 years left on her sentence.

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