Chesterton Tribune

Pleads guilty to OWI in fatal I94 accident

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A Tinley Park, Ill., man has pleaded guilty to an OWI charge in connection with a crash which killed another motorist on I-94 in Porter County last October.

Michael Michalski, 54, pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated with a blood alcohol content higher than .08 percent and causing death, a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune today.

Under the plead-and-argue agreement, Bennett said, Michalskiís sentence will be capped at four years with a minimum of two years. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 29 before Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper.

Bennett noted that Michalski pleaded guilty to the severest of the seven charges filed against him--totaling three felonies and four misdemeanors--and that in such a case he may not also be prosecuted on the lesser and included charges.

Bennett also noted that the presumptive sentence for a Class C felony is typically four years, with an addition of years when there are aggravating factors or a shaving of years when there are mitigating ones. Bennett said that he was unaware of any aggravating factors in Michalskiís case.

In any event, Michalski will be eligible for release after serving half of his sentence.

According to the Indiana State Police, at 12:50 a.m. on Oct. 11, traffic had slowed for an earlier crash in the eastbound lanes of I-94 at the 28.5 mile marker, just east of the scales, when Michalski, driving a 2003 Ford Expedition, rear ended Benjamin Larson, 30, of Platteville, Wis. The impact forced Larsonís 2000 Dodge Intrepid into the back of a 2005 Volvo semi-tractor trailer, police said.

Larson was pronounced dead at the scene.

Michalski subsequently advised police that he had left a golf outing in Olympia Fields, Ill., and was on his way to Michigan at the time of the crash, Trooper Glen Fifield stated in his probable cause affidavit. Fifield further stated that Michalski showed signs of intoxication, that he passed two but failed several other field sobriety tests, and that he then refused to submit to a portable breath test. A warrant was obtained for a blood draw and two samples were taken.

Neither Michalski nor the driver of the semi was injured in the crash, police said.

Posted 8/5/2009