Strong Turnout Needed for Tomorrow’s Hearing in the Hector Avalos Case
At a court hearing tomorrow morning, Judge Nicholas Ford will likely recommend a sentence for the driver who allegedly struck and killed cyclist Hector Avalos while drunk. It’s crucial that there be a large turnout of Avalos family supporters in the courtroom to remind the judge that, if defendant Robert Vais is guilty, he must not be let off with a slap on the wrist.
On December 6, 2013, Avalos was biking back to the South Side from his job as a cook at a restaurant in River North. Vais, an administrator at Stroger Hospital, reportedly attended a staff Christmas party in Little Italy prior to the collision. At 11:58 p.m., he was driving to his home in southwest suburban Riverside when he fatally struck Avalos on the 2500 block of West Ogden in Douglas Park.
Vais was found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.118 percent, well above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. He was charged with a felony aggravated DUI and two misdemeanor DUI charges. Vais recently asked Judge Ford for a “402 Conference,” a meeting between his lawyer, the Cook County State’s Attorney.
The 402 Conference is scheduled to take place at tomorrow’s hearing, according to Avalos family attorney Michael Keating of Keating Law Offices (a Streetsblog Chicago sponsor). During the meeting, the prosecutor will tell Ford why the State’s Attorney’s office believes they would prevail if the case went to trial. The defense will also state their case to the judge.
The judge will then give a recommended sentence for Vais. “Whether or not the defense chooses to accept or reject it is their prerogative,” Keating said. If they reject the sentence, the case would proceed towards trial. If they accept the recommendation, and the sentence includes jail time, Vais would be subject to being taken into immediate custody, according to Keating.
Asked whether he would prefer to see Vais accept a plea agreement or have the case go to trial, Keating said, “My desire as an attorney is always to see justice done, one way or another.” He added that all of his employees will be at the hearing in support of their client, Avalos’ mother Ingrid Cossio.
Given that tomorrow is the day that Judge Ford will likely give the recommended sentence, it’s key that there be a big turnout from Avalos family supporters and bike advocates. If there is a strong showing from those who demand an appropriate sentence for the man who allegedly chose to drive drunk, taking another man’s life in the process, that’s sure to influence Ford’s decision.
The hearing takes place tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. at the Cook County Courthouse, 26th and California, room 702.