BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) — A former Illinois State Police trooper whose 2007 high-speed crash killed two sisters on a southwestern Illinois freeway has lost his latest bid to get his driving privileges back.
An Illinois Secretary of State’s Office hearing officer denied Matt Mitchell’s request to have his driver’s license reinstated, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Monday. Mitchell now has little more than a month to appeal to a court.
“I’m glad the Secretary of State did the right thing,” said Brendan Kelly, St. Clair County’s state’s attorney.
Mitchell’s license was revoked in May 2010 after he pleaded guilty to reckless homicide charges. He was sentenced to 30 months of probation.
Mitchell, 34, was driving more than 120 mph and using his cellphone on Interstate 64 in southwestern Illinois the day after Thanksgiving when his cruiser crossed the median and slammed into an oncoming car. Sisters Jessica Uhl, 18, and Kelli Uhl, 13, died in the collision and a couple in another car Kelly and Christine Marler of Fayetteville were injured.
Mitchell, who now lives in Killeen, Texas, argued in his petition to get his driving privileges restored that he is a single parent of a 9-year-old daughter and needs to be able to drive. Mitchell also wrote he pleaded guilty in the deadly wreck because of the “negative exposure from the media and the adverse behavior from citizens in my local area.”
Mitchell acknowledged four other wrecks since he began driving in 1994 and that he hit three deer between April 2000 and November 2007, though it wasn’t clear whether those wrecks involved his police cruiser.
In a letter to the hearing officers, prosecutors said accused Mitchell of driving “like a cowboy instead of a trooper.”
Mitchell insisted otherwise.
“What I would say about me is that I liked to push my limitations,” Mitchell wrote in a reinstatement application. “I always wanted to be the best I could be at whatever it was I was doing. … This is still true. The difference is that I know my limitations and take my time to evaluate the risk and act accordingly.”
Kimberly Schlau, the girls’ mother, said Mitchell doesn’t deserve to get his license back.
“When Jessica received her license, I told her that driving was a privilege, not a right, and was earned by obeying the rules of the road, as well as showing responsibility and good judgment,” Schlau said. “We are afraid that he will continue to show poor judgment behind the wheel of his personal vehicle which could result in future injuries or deaths.”
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