Posted by: chicagoshells | August 14, 2012

“Shells did everything right”

The sentencing happened as scheduled yesterday.  Saying that it went “well” isn’t exactly the right term, but the sentence was actually harsher than we had anticipated.  We knew that, since it was the driver’s first offense, it was extremely unlikely that she would get prison time.  We were expecting probabtion and community service.  But apparently,  the judge actually did strongly consider prison time and would up sentencing her to 90 days in a work-release inpatient addiction facility.  So basically, for three months, she’ll be allowed to leave to go to work (which I guess means she is able to keep her job as a teacher) but will spend every night and all day on the weekends in this facility.  In addition, she’ll have 30 months of probation (which includes spontaneous urine tests, etc.) and has to do 480 hours of community service.

At the time, I thought seeing her face to face was more interesting than anything else, and satisfied a curiosity… but then I dreamed about the accident last night, with the driver’s face visible for the first time.  Ugh.  I hope that doesn’t continue.  She did read a prepared statement of remorse and apology.  Strangely, it was written more to my family than to me directly.  It sounded like she had the idea, for some reason, that I was a lot younger than I am– a child.  That doesn’t  really make sense, because she read it after my own statement– which clearly mentions work and a spouse– was read, but whatever.

The sentencing agreement had been made earlier that day (in a conference in the judge’s chambers before the case was officially called), but the prosecutor still summed up what his case would have been.  He mentioned the eye-witness who saw me get hit and land on the hood of her car “before bouncing to the pavement” (an image I could have lived without hearing), read my Victim Impact Statement, and listed the facts from the arresting police officer’s report.  I actually heard people in the courtroom gasp when he read that her blood alcohol level was a .228.

Hearing my own words was the hardest part of the day.  The state’s attorney asked us (my father wrote a statement as well) if we wanted to read them out loud ourselves.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if I did that, so he read it for me, but first, he wanted me to glance over it just to see if it was still what I wanted to say.  About two sentences in, I started having an anxiety attack and couldn’t even read it.  I mostly kept it together while he read it out loud, but it brought me right back to the feelings of helplessnss I’ve fought so hard to forget.  Not fun.

Hearing the driver actually plead guilty was satisfying, in a way.  Her husband and either a sister or a friend were there with her, and her friend was crying at that time, which kind of irritated me.  But I am so glad that I was there to hear the judge’s words to her.  He said “Drunk Driver, you are now a convicted felon, and you will wear that for the rest of your life…in this case, Shells did everything right.  Drunk Driver did everything wrong.  But it’s Shells who paid the price for Drunk Driver’s actions.  And that isn’t fair…if you break any conditions of your probation, you will be back in my courtroom, where I can sentence you to prison.  And off the record, Drunk Driver, that is a promise.”  Hearing “Shells did everything right” meant a great deal to me, more than I could have predicted.  Although I know intellectually that none of this is my fault– and God knows that Trouble, my parents, my friends, and my therapist have all worked hard to remind me of that– those what-ifs continue to roll around in my head sometimes.  It was gratifying to reaffirm that, truly, no one blames me for this.

So…was yesterday a magic day of closure?  No, of course not.  Having that over with doesn’t speed up the healing (and in fact my damn knee has been driving me particularly crazy today).  But I do feel like it’s another hurdle that I’m passed…another part of all this that I don’t have to think about anymore. Now I have an answer when someone asks me whatever happened with the driver (which, in fact, happens a lot).  She is being punished, and having seen and heard her, I am hopeful that she really has learned something from all this and won’t be a repeat offender.  I almost wish I could “check in” somehow at the end of her probation period, to make sure she really has followed all the terms and conditions…but then, that’s 2.5 years from now.  I’d like to think that, by then, it will feel even further removed…a bad memory that really no longer impacts my daily life.  Here’s hoping.



  1. This sounds like it was totally traumatic. I’m glad she got as harsh a sentence as that, and that if she messes up she’ll be in prison. And I hope that in 2 and a half years you’ll be far, far from this.

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