Daily Herald
Could distracted driver avoid jail despite killing motorcyclist?
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 5/9/2010 12:01 AM

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A motorist convicted of killing a motorcyclist in a much-publicized traffic accident could avoid prison if the judge decides justice is better served through community service, a DePaul University law professor said.

For example, making 49-year-old Lora Hunt of Morris talk to teenagers or new drivers about the 2009 fatal crash and the dangers of distracted driving could be an alternative to locking her up for five years, the maximum possible prison sentence, Professor John Decker told the Daily Herald.

A jury deliberated for more than three hours Thursday before finding Hunt guilty of reckless homicide in the death of Lake Zurich resident Anita Zaffke.

Prosecutors said Hunt was painting her nails moments before her car hit Zaffke's motorcycle at a stoplight at Rand and Old McHenry roads near Lake Zurich.

"I think there'd be a lot to be gained by putting her in some sort of structured program where she would be required to talk about her experience," Decker said. "At least it would have an impression on some (people)."

Hunt's attorney, Jeffrey Tomczak, said he plans to argue for keeping Hunt out of prison. Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Mike Mermel, who prosecuted the case, would not say what sentence he will seek. Hunt is scheduled to appear before Lake County circuit court Judge Fred Foreman again June 15 to find out when her sentencing will be scheduled.

The amount of remorse Hunt shows - and has shown - likely will be a factor Foreman will consider when it comes to sentencing, Decker said.

"What's going to be most important is how she's going to come off in that courtroom," said Decker, a former criminal defense attorney. "I'm not saying that always works, but if it's (a) genuine, honest acknowledgment of wrongdoing, that indicates the person is heading down the (path) of rehabilitation."

Foreman also likely will consider if Hunt has dependents who rely on her for their well being, Decker said.

After the verdict, Zaffke's son, Greg Zaffke, said his family will seek the permanent revocation of Hunt's driver's license to serve as an example for other motorists.

She automatically will have her driver's license revoked for two years because of the conviction, said Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Illinois Secretary of State's office.

That won't happen until the circuit court clerk notifies the state of the conviction, which could take a week, Druker said.