A Naperville-area man was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison, for causing a drunken traffic crash last year that killed another motorist and gravely injured an Illinois State Police trooper.
Salesman and former Chicagoan Daniel Clark, 34, lives on the 5S700 block of Steeple Run Drive, in the unincorporated Steeple Run area of DuPage County along the Naperville-Lisle border. He was convicted of charges of aggravated DUI causing death and aggravated DUI causing great bodily harm in the crash that took the life of Frank Caruso and seriously injured Trooper Matthew Woodiel, said DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert B. Berlin.
Clark pleaded guilty July 22 in the crash, which occurred about 1:20 a.m. Feb. 11, 2012 on the Interstate 290 extension at Mill Road near Addison. His blood-alcohol level was more than double the limit that defines intoxication when his vehicle slammed into Woodiel’s parked police car.
Caruso, 42, a painter from Brookfield, was warming up in the back seat of the squad and awaiting the arrival of a tow truck. He had been on his way home from work when his sport utility vehicle was struck and rendered inoperable minutes earlier in a minor traffic crash.
Court testimony showed Clark at that time was talking on his cell phone and driving east on the extension at a speed of 73 mph. His Chevy Malibu rear-ended the cruiser, which was stopped in the left-hand and middle lanes with its red and blue emergency lights flashing, shielding Caruso’s SUV.
The impact spun the squad car around, hurling Woodiel into the back seat and pinning Caruso inside, according to court testimony.
Caruso, who had to be extricated from the wreckage, was pronounced dead a short time later at an area hospital. Woodiel suffered head injuries that put him on medical leave for several weeks, prosecutors said during the July hearing.
Testing after the crash showed Clark had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19, or nearly 2½ times higher than the .08 legal limit.
“Once again, we see the tragic consequences of drinking and driving,” Berlin said Thursday in a news release. “Mr. Clark’s reckless decision to operate a motor vehicle after he had been drinking cost an innocent man his life ...”
“In addition to spending the next 10 years of his life behind bars, Mr. Clark will now spend the rest of his life knowing that he, alone, is responsible for the death of Frank Caruso,” he said.
Additionally, Woodiel “has endured tremendous physical and emotional pain as a result of the crash, and I wish him a full recovery,” Berlin said.
Judge Kathryn Creswell imposed Clark’s sentence. He will be required to serve 85 percent of the prison term before becoming eligible for parole.
Caruso’s older sister, Anna Marie Caruso, said following the July court hearing, she was “happy (Clark was) taking responsibility. I hope it’s for the right reason — because he feels remorse.”
“The punishment will never fit the crime,” she said. “We don’t really want to see anyone go to jail, but he does need to take responsibility. No one forced alcohol down his throat.”
The siblings’ elderly father, also named Frank Caruso, had died just 18 days before the crash.
Defense attorney John Donahue, following the July hearing, would say only “it’s a tragic situation.”