Illinois man sentenced in drunk driving crash that injured six

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Jonah Beleckis | July 6, 2016

ELKHORN—An Illinois man was sentenced to three years in prison and three years of extended supervision in Walworth County Court on Tuesday in connection with a drunken-driving crash last summer that injured six people.

Rafael Eleazar Cagsanon-Balam, 31, of Capron, Illinois, failed to stop at a stop sign Aug. 23, 2015, on Highway 67 in the town of Sharon, authorities said.

His car collided with a car driven by Amaryllis Arellano, 24, of West Chicago, Illinois, seriously injuring her and five passengers.

Judge James Carlson ordered that Cagsanon-Balam pay $405,706.20 in restitution to cover medical costs for three of the six people injured. The three, all female juveniles, suffered “broken bones or injuries that would cause permanent disfigurement,” according to the criminal complaint.

A preliminary breath test showed Cagsanon-Balam's blood-alcohol content was 0.25 that day, more than three times the legal limit, according to the complaint.

Cagsanon-Balam claimed he drank only one beer two hours before the crash, the complaint said.

Judge James Carlson said Tuesday it was “an incredible amount of alcohol.”

Under a plea agreement, Cagsanon-Balam was convicted of three felony counts of injury by intoxicated use of a vehicle and two felony counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety.

“There are too many traffic crashes in this country, in Walworth County,” said Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo, arguing for a long sentence. “It has been difficult to keep track of them all.”

Carlos Ortega-Guerrero, a passenger in Arellano's vehicle, called the crash the “most traumatic accident in my adult life.”

“I realized how close we really are to death,” said Ortega-Guerrero, looking up from his prepared remarks to look at Cagsanon-Balam.

Ortega-Guerrero described how he battled stereotypes as a first-generation immigrant who became the first in his family to graduate from college. He said Cagsanon-Balam's behavior reinforces negative stereotypes about immigrants.

Cagsanon-Balam said he has been taking steps to move on from what he called the “worst decision of my life.” He said he has attended meetings for his alcohol issues and has taken classes to obtain his high school equivalency degree.

After his time in prison and extended supervision, Cagsanon-Balam will face 11.5 years of probation.

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