City worker gets 9 years in DUI crash

March 29, 2012 4:42:45 AM PDT
A former city worker was sentenced to nine years in prison for a drunken-driving crash that injured seven pedestrians on a busy sidewalk on the Near North Side last year.

Dwight Washington, 62, a former Streets and Sanitation worker for the city of Chicago, could have gotten up to 24 years in prison. His sentence of nine years was far less than what some victims of the crash may have expected. Some of them now have life-altering injuries.

Stephen Dewart was one of the pedestrians injured in the crash. His life may never be like it was before May 21, 2011, when the crash occurred. He has a metal rod in his leg and he put off his dream of going to law school.

"Ultimately, [I] suffered tibial, fibial fractures in my right leg, four shattered vertebrae," said Dewart.

Dewart was with a large group of people in a popular area of the Gold Coast when Washington jumped a curb while on duty in a city truck with a bottle of brandy inside. He slammed into the crowd and seven people were injured, some seriously.

Washington, whose blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit, pleaded guilty recently and was sentenced Wednesday. The 311 days he has already served in jail will be subtracted from the nine-year sentence.

"He's going to be punished," Dewart said. "I think there is no real winner here."

"It's taken a toll on everything, but we're getting through it and our marriage is becoming stronger," said Sharokina Pazand, Dewart's wife.

Washington, a Vietnam veteran, father and husband, read a statement to the victim's in court saying, "I'm sorry for the pain I caused ... I understand why you hate me."

Before delivering his sentence, Judge James B. Lynn said, "I know Dwight Washington didn't wake up on May 21st with the intention of hurting his fellow citizens."

Daniel Kotin represents some of the victims, including a hero nanny, Jennifer Anton, 26, who saved a baby she was strolling. Anton wasn't in court Wednesday and is still walking with a cane.

"I called Jen as soon as we recieved the sentence," Kotin said. "I said, 'give me one word, reaction to how you feel about the nine year sentence.' She said, 'well, relief would be the one word.'"

Dewart shared another story after court. His parents were coincidentally in the area at the time of the crash. His mother, who is a nurse, rushed to the scene to help, thinking she would be rescuing strangers.

"They ultimately came upon me as I was pinned underneath the car," he said. "They were like the Good Samaritans. Fate played its hand that day."

Many of the victims have civil cases against Washington and the city. One attorney says the city is not contesting liability so the issue now is how much money victims are entitled to recieve.