Driver close to plea decision in deadly Skokie DUI
Hanin Goma, charged in connection with a traffic crash that killed 9-year-old Carter Vo last May, no longer has a plea agreement to consider. The court Thursday withdrew the offer.| File photo
Updated: February 25, 2013 6:17AM
A woman charged with being on drugs during a car crash that killed a 9-year-old boy last May appears close to deciding whether she’ll take a plea offer from prosecutors, asking Jan. 17 to read a letter to the court before announcing her decision.
Hanin Goma, accused of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs, has had a plea agreement on the table for weeks, and appeared ready to take action on it in court Jan. 17.
The family of the victim, however, was not in attendance, and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Cathy Crowley said the state would never accept a plea without the family being there. A new court date has been set for Jan. 24, when Goma is expected to decide whether she will accept a plea or head to trial.
Goma’s lawyer, Michael Goggin, said Goma wanted to “articulate” to the family and the court her feelings about the case “before she makes a serious decision about her life.”
Goma apparently wrote a letter intended for the court and the family of the victim, which was collected before the hearing was complete. Wearing a maroon prison suit, she appeared on the verge of tears as her lawyer asked that Goma be allowed to make a statement.
Goma allegedly struck and killed Carter Vo on May 21, 2012 while he riding his bike on the sidewalk near the intersection of Main Street and St. Louis Avenue in Skokie. She was also cited for failing to yield at a stop intersection and failure to provide proof of valid insurance.
Goma was heading south on St. Louis while trying to turn left on Main when the tragedy occurred. According to police, she hit an eastbound vehicle, losing control of her car, and then struck the boy and dragged him and his bicycle about 150 feet before ramming a parked car.
Police said Goma admitted to smoking marijuana the day of the crash. Blood tests also showed marijuana and amphetamines in her system, they said.
The suspect was released from jail on $250,000 bond after the incident, but she violated her release conditions in August, police said. She was reported as the victim of a battery at a location more than a half mile from her home – well beyond her restricted limit. She was taken into custody after Skokie police alerted the county about the incident. She has been in jail ever since.
Goma’s family was in court on Jan. 17, but not Vo’s parents, who have appeared at most of the hearings.
Instead, Sharon Johnson, a victim advocate for The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, was in court on behalf of Vo’s family.
Outside the hearing, Johnson said the family believes that Goma should receive jail time.
“Probation should not even be part of the thought process,” she said.
Although the lawyers in the case have not provided details of the plea bargain being offered, Vo’s father, Nhu Vo, has said it’s for five years’ jail time. If true, the only way Goma could avoid jail is to have her case heard by a jury, which would then need to find her not guilty.
Without a plea agreement, Goma could serve at least 85 percent of a three- to 14-year sentence if found guilty.
Johnson said victimized families in these kinds of cases aren’t out for money, only for justice. They want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else, she said.
“This little boy is not coming back,” Johnson said. “The family is really emotional – all families in this situation are. It’s very difficult for them to even be here.”