Homicide Charge Dropped in Cann Case; Driver Still May Get Stiff Sentence
At a hearing on Friday, a judge dismissed reckless homicide charges against Ryne San Hamel, the driver who fatally struck cyclist Bobby Cann while allegedly drunk and speeding. While this decision represents a setback in the case against San Hamel, he is still charged with aggravated DUI resulting in a death, which carries a potentially heavier sentence.
On the evening of May 29, 2013, Cann, 26, was biking from work when San Hamel, 28, struck and killed him at the intersection of Clybourn Avenue and Larabee Street in Old Town. According to police, San Hamel was driving 50 mph and had a blood-alcohol content of 0.127, well above the legal limit of 0.08. He had been arrested on alcohol-related charges while driving, including a DUI, on two previous occasions and received relatively light penalties, according to a Chicago Reader article.
After San Hamel struck Cann, in addition to the reckless homicide and aggravated DUI charges, he was charged with misdemeanor DUI, reckless driving, and failure to stay in the lane. Last fall, San Hamel retained defense lawyer Sam Adam Jr., whose previous clients include ex-governor Rod Blagojevich and R&B star R. Kelly.
Adam recently filed a number of motions, including the motion to dismiss the reckless homicide charge. He asserted that the charge was not specific enough for San Hamel’s team to adequately prepare his defense, according to Cann family attorney Kate Conway. While it might seem obvious that speeding while intoxicated is reckless, Adam argued that these actions weren’t sufficiently spelled out in the indictment.
Judge William Hooks agreed that the charge was too vague. However, he dismissed the charge “without prejudice,” which means that the Cook County State’s Attorney can potentially re-indict San Hamel with more specificity in the future, Conway said. “It’s certainly not an end to the case, it’s simply an end to one of the indictments.”
Tandra Simonton, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s office, did not say whether Assistant State’s Attorney Maria Augustus, who is prosecuting the case, plans to re-bring the reckless homicide charges. However, Simonton noted that the aggravated DUI charge is the more serious felony. “We’re still moving forward with the case,” she said.
Damon Cheronis, a local criminal defense attorney who is not involved with the case, explained why the remaining felony charge carries the potentially heavier sentence. Reckless homicide without specific aggravating factors – such as if the crash took place in a school zone or a work zone, or if the victim was a law enforcement officer — is a class 3 felony with a sentence of two-to-five years, Cheronis said. The sentence is subject to early release for time served or good behavior.
In contrast, aggravated DUI resulting in a death is a class 2 felony with a sentence of three-to-fourteen years, according to Cheronis. The defendant must serve at least 85 percent of the sentence in prison. Probation is usually is not an option.
Moreover, Illinois generally does not enforce sentences consecutively, Cheronis said. Therefore, even if San Hamel was found guilty and sentenced on all of the charges, he would probably only serve the maximum time for any one of the charges.
Conway said that while Hooks’ ruling is unfortunate, it does not mean San Hamel will be let off with a slap on the wrist, as was the case with his previous alcohol-related charges. “The fact that the motion was granted was not what his supporters wanted, and there was disappointment in the room,” Conway said. About a dozen people attended Friday’s hearing in support of the victim’s family. “But we remain committed and eager to see justice done.”
The next hearing will take place on Tuesday, August 11, at 10 a.m. at the Cook County courthouse, 26th Street and California Avenue, Room 301.
In response to Cann’s death, the Illinois Department of Transportation, which had previously blocked the city of Chicago from installing protected bike lanes on state roads within the city, agreed to “pilot” a curb-protected bike lane on Clybourn in Old Town. Read about the project here.