Paralyzed DUI Crash Victim Gets a Second Shot at Prom

Going to prom was a dream Leeslyee Huerta had long given up, until she met the drunken driver who put her in a wheelchair.

Tonight, Huerta will be a guest of honor at Metea Valley High School’s senior prom — thanks in part to 27-year-old Nick Chodzko, whose intoxicated driving left her paralyzed five years ago.

AAIM helps Leeslyee, other DUI victimsThe Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists is a nonprofit group that assists victims and families of victims of DUI crashes.

In addition to providing Leeslyee Huerta with a courtroom advocate, and filling her request to meet the driver who paralyzed her, the agency raised money to pay her family’s mortgage for three months, make a car payment, and buy her a computer so she can take online college courses.

Lorraine Wesolowski, an AAIM advocate, said many victims of DUI crashes struggle financially following such a devastating turn of events. “There are so many things that could make anybody buckle under the pressure,” she said.

For more information, visit www.aaim1.org.

Chodzko and Huerta recently met at Huerta’s request and, last week, appeared before a crowd of Metea seniors who were captivated by their friendship.

Now the Aurora school is treating Huerta and her boyfriend to the prom they never had — complete with a makeover, flowers, a dress, tux, limo and dinner, all donated by local businesses and students.

“I’m so thrilled to be going because we never got to go to mine,” Huerta said Thursday. “I’m going to use this moment as if it was mine.”

Huerta, of Bolingbrook, was 18 years old and in her last semester of high school when the crash occurred in the early morning hours of Feb. 11, 2007.

Chodzko, then 21, had been drinking at a party and ended up driving the wrong way on the Stevenson Expressway near Harlem Avenue when he slammed head-on into a van driven by Huerta’s aunt.

Huerta, who was asleep and buckled into a back seat, still remembers the sound of the collision and glass breaking.

When she awoke in a hospital more than a week later, she learned her back was “broken in two” and that she likely wouldn’t walk again.

For a year, Huerta was unable to go to court and face her offender.

She said she fell into a deep depression and, at one time, contemplated cutting her wrists.

“I was focusing so much on my hate, I was losing my life,” she said.

The burden began to ease when Huerta learned she was pregnant in 2009 — unexpected but welcomed news that gave her hope.

She also recognized sincere remorse in Chodzko, who she said borrowed money to buy her a specially equipped van to get around, even as his criminal case was pending.

Chodzko pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI in June 2010, receiving four years of probation and 480 hours of community service.

Huerta said she would never forget his apology in court.

“He said, ‘I’m very sorry, and I don’t expect you to forgive me because I don’t deserve that,'” she recalled. “He didn’t read it from a piece of paper, so I knew it came from his heart.”

Still, questions lingered.

Huerta said she wanted to hear what Chodzko experienced firsthand and find out whether his life changed as drastically as hers did. “I needed that,” she said. So at her request, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists last month arranged a supervised meeting with them at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

They talked for three hours.

“It felt amazing,” Chodzko said. “We talked about what we experienced in the accident, what life is like now — just everything. She knows that I didn’t intend what I did. It was a mistake.”

“I told him, ‘I don’t hate you anymore. I don’t want you to feel that way anymore,’” Huerta said.

Chodzko also had no easy road to recovery. After the crash, he was in a coma for more than a month. When he regained consciousness, he learned his neck, elbow, ribs, femur and kneecap were broken, and that he had a traumatic brain injury that would require months of therapy and rehabilitation.

“I had no cognitive skills, no motor skills, no memory,” the Chicago Ridge man said.

Chodzko said he doesn’t remember the crash or much of the week before it, but he’s been told he was at a party before getting behind the wheel. He had no prior criminal record.

Chodzko is now in his second year of giving speeches about the dangers of drinking and driving, which is what brought him to Metea last week.

Assistant Principal Joy Ross said seniors watched a DUI crash simulation and heard a moving speech by Chodzko, who at the end pointed out “my victim” sitting nearby.

He told students that Huerta never went to prom or graduation, and it was his fault.

“That, in and of itself, was jolting for the kids,” Ross said.

Afterward, students met with the two in the lunchroom and talked.

“We really wanted the students to see how impactful this is, how emotional it is,” Ross said. “It was very surreal, very sobering.”

Chodzko said giving speeches brings him peace because “I know at least one person out of the group will listen to me. If I get more, that’s absolutely amazing.”

As for prom, he said he’s happy Huerta gets to go.

“I want her to enjoy it and for it to be memorable,” he said. “That’s her night.”

Lorraine Wesolowski, who advocated for Huerta on behalf of AAIM and helped arrange the meeting with Chodzko, described the situation as “absolute magic.”

Wesolowski, whose own daughter was killed by a drunken driver on Dec. 26, 1999, said she’s never seen an offender and victim connect in such a way.

“I’m in court with victims’ and defendants’ families all the time, and I see people hug and shake hands,” she said. “But this? I don’t know if I’ll ever see anything like it again. It’s a wonderful, healing thing.”

Police & Fire Police: No ‘Special Treatment’ in Redskins’ Meriweather DUI Arrest

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather was charged with driving under the influence this week after being stopped for speeding on Interstate 66, according to Arlington County police.

Shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday, an Arlington officer observed a Lincoln going 73 mph on I-66 westbound in the vicinity of North Ohio Street, police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said.

The posted speed limit for that area is 55 mph.

The officer pulled the vehicle over and smelled the strong odor of alcohol coming from the driver, who was later identified as Meriweather, Sternbeck said.

Meriweather refused to take a breath test and subsequently failed a field sobriety test, Sternbeck said.

The football player told the officer that he had been drinking at a nightclub in Washington, though he did not indicate the name of the club, how much he had to drink or where he was going, Sternbeck said.

Meriweather was arrested and taken to Arlington County jail. He was released later Thursday.

“This DUI was no different than any other DUI arrest or traffic stop initiated by our officers,” Sternbeck said. “It was handled exactly the same from the initial stop to walking up to the vehicle to the identification process.”

Sternbeck continued: “Even though he is a Washington Redskins athlete, that does not grant him special treatment. He was speeding while under the influence of alcohol, and he’s got consequences he now must face.”

A spokesman for the Redskins did not return a phone message or email inquiring if or how this charge would affect Meriweather’s standing with the team.

Meriweather signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Redskins just last month, according to the Associated Press.

Car crashes into Connecticut liquor store — and driver gets a DUI charge

http://media.nbcconnecticut.com/designvideo/embeddedPlayer.swf

By Bob Connors, NBCConnecticut.com

A woman charged with DUI after her car slammed through a Connecticut liquor store  is blaming it all on Nyquil and Armor All.

A car driven by Sharon Brooks, 63, of East Haven crossed over the sidewalk and crashed through the front entrance of Yankee Discount Liquor at 664 Foxon Road around 2:30 p.m. Friday, according to police.

See the video and original report at NBCConnecticut.com

The car continued halfway into the store, striking the counter, crushing displays of wine and injuring an employee inside. The worker was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital with what police called minor injuries.

Brooks was charged with driving under the influence and reckless driving.

As she left East Haven Police headquarters, Brooks spoke exclusively to NBC Connecticut.

“I have a cold,” Brooks said.

When asked if she had taken cold medicine, Brooks replied, “Nyquil and somebody cleaned the inside of my car and they put Armor All on my brake pad and my foot slipped off the brake pad.”

Brooks further explained what happened by saying, “I never had the whole inside of my car cleaned before and this time I did so it would look really nice, and my foot slipped off the brake.”

Deepak Pattani, the store’s owner, says he’s never seen anything like this crash in his eight years of doing business at this location.

“We were just waiting over there for the customers to come in and all of a sudden the car came in all the way, halfway through the store and we were just shocked,” said Pattani.

He says Brooks is a regular customer at the store.

“If I was on alcohol I wouldn’t be leaving now,” said Brooks, just before she got into a taxi outside the police station.

Workers at the liquor store say they’re just thankful things weren’t worse.

“If I was cleaning or helping a customer I would have been killed,” said Babu Khatiwada, a store employee.

 

Categories: Featured

Bobby Brown arrested on suspicion of DUI

The Los Angeles Times reports that singer Bobby Brown was arrested in the San Fernando Valley on suspicion of driving under the influence. Officers pulled him over for talking on his cellphone but then administered a field sobriety test, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

Two-day DUI blitz nets 373 arrests

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INDIANAPOLIS(WANE) – Indiana State Police reported Monday that two-day campaign took 373 impaired drivers off state roadways over the weekend.

In addition to the DUI arrests on Friday and Saturday, between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., troopers also issued 3,717 traffic citations and 6,262 warnings. Officers also made 402 arrests for various criminal violations.

The purpose of the two day enforcement campaign was to remove impaired drivers from Indiana roadways before they caused needless pain, suffering, and death to innocent victims. The Indiana State Police is committed to reducing the number of impaired driving crashes.

ISP said impaired driving remains one of America’s deadliest problems. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, 33,808 people were killed nationally in motor vehicle crashes. That same year, 10,839 people were killed in crashes that involved a driver or motorcyclist with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. That means every 48 minutes someone died in a crash involving an impaired driver. In Indiana, in 2009, there were a total of 189,676 crashes, 8,855 of them were alcohol related, resulting in 168 deaths.

Motorists are encouraged to report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911. Give a vehicle description, location, and direction of travel. Never follow an impaired driver.

 

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1stpix_diecast_dioramas/5156481501/

Reposted: http://www.wane.com/dpp/news/indiana/two-day-dui-blitz-nets-373-arrests

Stoned-driving epidemic puts wrinkle in pot debate By Kristen Wyatt

Associated Press Sunday, March 18, 2012

Angeline Chilton of suburban Denver smokes marijuana twice a day to ease tremors from multiple sclerosis. Ms. Chilton insists that she never drives high, but she fears that officials will rush to set an unproven blood-level standard that would put her at risk of breaking the law. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Angeline Chilton of suburban Denver smokes marijuana twice a day to ease tremors from multiple sclerosis. Ms. Chilton insists that she never drives high, but she fears that officials will rush to set an unproven blood-level standard that would put her at risk of breaking the law. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

DENVER (AP) — Angeline Chilton says she can’t drive unless she smokes pot.

The suburban Denver woman uses medical marijuana to ease multiple sclerosis symptoms and says she never would get behind the wheel right after smoking. But her case underscores a problem that no one’s sure how to solve: How do you tell if someone is too stoned to drive?

States that allow medical marijuana have grappled with determining impairment levels for years. And voters in Colorado and Washington state will decide this fall whether to legalize the drug for recreational use, bringing a new urgency to the issue.

A Denver marijuana advocate says officials are scrambling for limits in part because more drivers acknowledge using the drug.

“The explosion of medical marijuana patients has led to a lot of drivers sticking the (marijuana) card in law enforcement’s face, saying, ‘You can’t do anything to me — I’m legal,”’ said Sean McAllister, a lawyer who defends people charged with driving under the influence of marijuana.

It’s not that simple. Driving while impaired by any drug is illegal in all states.

But it highlights the challenges law enforcement officers face using old tools to try to fix a new problem. Most convictions for drugged driving now are based on police observations, followed later by a blood test.

Authorities envision a legal threshold for pot that would be comparable to the blood-alcohol standard used to determine drunken driving.

But unlike alcohol, marijuana stays in the blood long after the high wears off a few hours after use, and there is no quick test to determine someone’s level of impairment — not that scientists haven’t been working on it.

Dr. Marilyn Huestis of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a government research lab, said that soon there will be a saliva test to detect recent marijuana use.

But government officials say that doesn’t address the question of impairment.

“I’ll be dead — and so will lots of other people — from old age before we know the impairment levels” for marijuana and other drugs, said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.

Authorities recognize the need for a solution. Marijuana causes dizziness and slowed reaction time, and drivers are more likely to drift and swerve while they’re high.

Dr. Bob DuPont, president of the Institute for Behavior and Health, a non-government institute that works to reduce drug abuse, says research proves “the terrible carnage out there on the roads caused by marijuana.”

 

Reposted: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/mar/18/stoned-driving-epidemic-puts-wrinkle-pot-debate/

Have you seen my baseballs? Denver has…

Have you seen my baseballs? Denver has...

640 Baseballs to represent the 640 DUIS that will occur in Denver over the 4th of July weekend

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