Sam Sanfilippo was caught going 103 mph on Interstate Highway 294 in 2006 — 48 mph over the speed limit — but you wouldn't know it by looking at his driving record.
That's also the case for Marvin McCraney, cited for weaving at 103 mph on Interstate Highway 55 in 2008.
And for Jermaine Johnson, who police said hit 110 mph on I-57 that year — and was drunk.
All got court supervision, a form of probation that kept the traffic tickets off their public driving records, and a Tribune investigation found those cases weren't exceptions.
For triple-digit speeders, they are the norm.
A Tribune analysis of state police tickets, license data and court records shows that since 2006, Chicagoland courts have given supervision to nearly two-thirds of those found guilty of driving 100 mph or faster.
For hundreds of motorists caught driving that fast every year, court supervision helps keep their insurance rates low while stopping officials from using the tickets as a reason to suspend their licenses.
Judges across the area defended supervision as a helpful alternative to conviction, but some were surprised at how often their peers handed it out. Also surprised was the state's keeper of driving records: Secretary of State Jesse White. Citing the Tribune's findings, White now wants to ban supervision for extreme speeders.
Mike Donovan is beyond surprised. He's outraged. Donovan's daughter and grandson were killed in 2005 by a DuPage County speeder with a history of supervisions.
"We see the judicial system basically failing us," said Donovan, who helps run a traffic-safety group called faces4.org.
Court supervision has long been a staple of area courts. Speeders pay a higher fine, often go to traffic school and maybe do community service. They also promise to drive safely during the probation period, usually a few months to a year. After that, the case is dismissed, as if the ticket never happened.
The Tribune analysis found that since 2006, more than 1,100 people cited for going 100 mph or faster by the Illinois State Police in metro Chicago kept all citations from the traffic stops off their records. And that's likely an undercount of triple-digit speeders who get court supervision, because the analysis didn't include cases where data were incomplete, still pending or that involved tickets issued by other departments.
Of the cases of triple-digit speeders with known court outcomes:
--Those who drove 100 mph or faster while drunk got their records cleansed 40 percent of the time, with no conviction even for DUI.
--Others driving recklessly or erratically at those speeds got supervision more than 60 percent of the time.
--For those cited just for speeding that fast, more than 70 percent received supervision.
Beneficiaries included Chalum Sangsuvan, who hit 131 mph in his BMW near the I-294/ I-88 interchange on a Saturday afternoon in 2008. He got supervision, despite getting supervision a year earlier for going 94 mph on I-294. He could not be reached for comment.
Even the fastest drivers benefitted.
Ajay Lodhari and Jaime Villarreal raced along I-94 in Lake County last summer at 150 mph —- the fastest citations in the data.
Both got supervision.
Tightening the law
For three decades, court supervision has been a popular maneuver in a state that suspends the license of anyone convicted of three moving violations in one year.
But insurance companies and traffic safety advocates loathe supervision. They claim that Illinois' program and similar ones in other states lead to more aggressive driving.
"A lot of what these (supervision) programs effectively do is hide the records of careless, reckless drivers," said Russ Rader, spokesman for the Institute for Highway Safety.
Illinois lawmakers tightened the system in 2000, a year after a semitruck driver pulled his rig in front of an approaching Amtrak train near Bourbonnais, killing 11 and injuring 120. A past supervision had allowed the trucker to keep his license
The legislature required that courts at least report supervisions to the secretary of state. That way, judges could see how many supervisions a driver had and, theoretically, crack down on chronic offenders.
But some judges remained generous. In 2004, nearly 4,000 drivers received supervision three times, more than 100 received it six times and one driver got it 14 times, according to the secretary of state's office.
In March 2004, a speeder hit two teenage siblings in Aurora, killing one of them. That led to a 2005 law that allows no more than two supervisions a year.
It was the last major change to the law, which didn't limit how fast someone could go and still get supervision.
White will try to change that. Based on the Tribune's findings, his office helped draft a bill last week to ban supervision for people going at least 40 mph over the speed limit. Because most area interstates have 55 mph limits, it would cover the vast majority of the area's triple-digit speeders.
"No driver has any business driving that rate of speed," said White spokesman Henry Haupt.
As of now, wide latitude is left to judges on how to handle the worst of the worst offenders.
Most triple-digit speeders aren't granted supervision downstate, the Tribune analysis found. Some places rarely give it at all.
In Logan County, for example, the court has found 59 people guilty of driving 100 mph or faster since 2006. Fifty-seven got convictions. Only two got supervision.
But even those numbers surprised Logan County Judge Thomas Funk, who handles traffic cases. He said he didn't think anyone had gotten supervision for driving that fast in his central Illinois county.
"We're trying to encourage people to obey the law," Funk said. "Are we really doing that if we allow them to keep these higher-end tickets off their record? I don't think so."
Contrast that with Cook County, where 66 percent of triple-digit speeders get court supervision.
The Cook County state's attorney's office can't say how often it recommended the sentence to judges. There's no blanket policy on when the office won't recommend supervision, other than for people already on supervision. No matter what prosecutors want, judges can grant it anyway.
Asked more than a week ago for comment, Cook County's presiding judge, Timothy Evans, said through his office that he was too busy to talk.
Prosecutors in DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties insist they rarely accept plea deals calling for supervision for people driving 100 mph or faster. Most blame judges for agreeing to it.
In DuPage County, where 62 percent of triple-digit speeders get the deal, State's Attorney Joe Birkett said those speeders usually impress judges by getting attorneys.
"Unfortunately, the mere fact they step up with a lawyer, the judge will take into consideration that this person is taking this seriously," Birkett said.
Judges in those counties, for their part, say they look at every case individually. They don't want to be overly harsh. Convictions can cost a driver his or her license, which could mean losing a job. And, judges often face a heavy volume of cases, with pressure to move through them quickly and assign fines.
"Some judges do 7,000 cases a month," said Will County Judge Gerald Kinney, "and you have municipalities who are as interested in revenue as they are in a conviction."
In each of the five counties, prosecutors and judges agreed that the more serious the offense, the less likely supervision would be given. Drunken drivers going 100 mph or faster would rarely, if ever, get supervision, most of those judges insisted.
The same for drivers who got multiple triple-digit speeding tickets or were on supervision for one ticket when they got another.
Yet, the Tribune found, those types of Chicagoland speeders got supervision, too.
Drivers such as Jermaine Johnson.
In July 2008, Johnson's Lexus sped past a trooper at 110 mph while weaving along I-57 near Dixmoor, before exiting and hitting 105 mph on a side street. Police said his blood-alcohol level was 0.120, which is 50 percent higher than the legal limit.
In the eight previous years, Johnson had received five supervisions on six speeding tickets.
Still, a judge waived the state-mandated six-month driver suspension for the DUI arrest. Then another judge gave the Bourbonnais man supervision for two years. Illinois law allows supervision for a first-time DUI. In exchange, Johnson agreed to pay $1,035 in fines and promised to follow the law.
But in June 2009, while on supervision, Johnson was clocked at 100 mph on I-57 in Markham. He never showed up in court and remains missing. To date, no judge has revoked the court-approved supervision for his high-speed DUI.
Supervisions can be revoked, but a review of 2008 cases found it happened to just 8 percent of triple-digit speeders — and often because fines weren't paid.
Poor driving habits may not matter, as in the case of Marvin McCraney.
He was caught weaving along I-55 at 103 mph in 2008, got supervision and one month into his probation received a ticket for driving 110 mph on I-294.
Despite violating probation by committing the exact crime for which he was on probation, he did not have his supervision revoked.
And for the second ticket, McCraney got another supervision.
The second time, his $420 fine was $15 less than the first ticket.
McCraney declined to talk about catching a break.
"I paid my fines," he said. "It's all over and done with."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun