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.”