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Rousso Would Plead Guilty to Reckless Homicide

Prosecution refuses to say whether the offer is acceptable.

Carly Rousso is willing to plead guilty to reckless homicide and accept the court's judgment, according to her lawyer. Photo by Stacy Westcott of the Chicago Tribune as part of a court approved media pool.
Carly Rousso is willing to plead guilty to reckless homicide and accept the court's judgment, according to her lawyer. Photo by Stacy Westcott of the Chicago Tribune as part of a court approved media pool.

A Highland Park teen is willing to plead guilty to her part in the death of a 5-year-old Highwood girl over a year ago and accept the punishment a Lake County Criminal Court will impose, according to comments her lawyer made today in Waukegan.

Carly Rousso, 19, drove her car across four lanes of Central Avenue in Highland Park Sept. 3, 2012, and is charged with striking and killing Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento, 5, as well as injuring other member of the victim’s family.

“She will plead guilty to reckless homicide right now and accept whatever punishment the court metes out,” Doug Zeit, Rousso’s attorney, said today before a hearing on the case. “She has been willing to accept responsibility for her actions since the day of the accident.”

Assistant Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Ori, the lead prosecutor in the case, was noncommittal. “That's going beyond what I am willing to comment on,” he said. “I want to insure a fair proceeding for Ms. Rousso."

Rousso is currently charged with reckless homicide, a Class 3 felony which carries a prison sentence of two to five years, and aggravated driving under the influence (DUI), a Class 2 felony which calls for three to seven years in jail.

Zeit has filed a motion to dismiss the DUI claims contending they are unconstitutionally vague. Lake County Criminal Court Judge James Booras was scheduled to rule on that argument today but postponed the hearing to Feb. 19 because of additional paperwork which must be filed. The trial was continued until March 14.

Both Zeit and Ori told Booras they expect a resolution in the case rather than a trial. “This is not the kind of case I expect to end in a trial,” Ori said. He wants the constitutional issues resolved before considering a possible guilty plea.

“I expect to dispose of this case once the constitutional issues are resolved,” Zeit added when talking to Booras. He will not let his client enter a guilty plea on the DUI charges. “I have never seen a case with this particular compound (difluoroethane) anyone has pled guilty to.” The prosecution claims Rousso inhaled difluoroethane before the crash.

Zeit is not looking for an agreement on punishment to enter a guilty plea. He said Rousso will accept Booras’s sentence. “We’ll go to a full blown sentencing hearing with aggravation and mitigation and live with the judge’s decision,” Zeit said.

Aggravation is the evidence the prosecution will introduce to argue for a harsher sentence while mitigation is the testimony Rousso will offer seeking a milder outcome, according to Zeit. This is the same kind of hearing which would occur after a guilty verdict at trial. He thinks this is best for all concerned.

“She (Rousso) is distressed by her action that day,” Zeit said referring to Jaclyn’s death. “She feels terrible for the family of the girl who passed away.”

Benny G. February 28, 2014 at 02:46 PM
Good point Stu: Just goes to boot strap the defense's case the fact she was huffed out of her mind and in an altered state and not acting criminally and simply negligent and had no purpose in this death and it was a negligent accident. Surely the defense will point this out to mitigate the case if it ever goes to trial or if it is a plea deal. You should offer the defense your services, Stu.
Social Justice February 28, 2014 at 07:29 PM
No doubt, if it was the reverse and someone from the victims' family had been intoxicated and ran over Carly and killed her, not only would they have gone to jail on day one, the trial would be over and they'd still be in jail!
Benny G. February 28, 2014 at 11:21 PM
Socal Joostus, you lost me at "if it was."...
Stu Pidasso March 01, 2014 at 04:29 PM
is'nt it criminal to knowingly blow your mind before getting in a car to drive. it seems that a DUI with alcohol is criminal, what's the difference?? just a different substance... If that's the case anyone getting drunk and in an accident should only be charged with negligent driving!!!
Benny G. March 01, 2014 at 05:42 PM
STU, how many times to I have to type this. The law goes to INTENT!!!!!!!!!! If a crime happens and someone intended it to happen it is judged much more harshly then if someone did not intend it to happen. Is that so difficult to get your pine seed sized brain around? Yes, it is criminal to drive drunk. The law is "hazy" when it comes to driving while huffing even though to the layperson they can be considered similar actions. In the eyes of the law they are NOT. This is what makes this case a little bizarre. "Criminal Negligence" was written into the law for all of these unintended deaths that occur. The penalties can be stiff but are less than murder charges and penalties.

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