An off-duty Joliet officer charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence in connection with a crash that killed her passenger – who was an off-duty Berwyn police officer – was cleared to legally drive again after a judge lifted a suspension of her license.
Officer Erin Zilka, 36, was arrested and charged with DUI after she ran a Dodge Durango into a box truck stopped on Interstate 55 north of Route 30.
Berwyn police officer Charles Schauer, 33, was riding in the passenger seat of the Durango. Schauer was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck.
Zilka's attorney, Jeff Tomczak, said Wednesday he did not know the nature of the Zilka and Schauer's relationship. Tomczak also said he did not know where Zilka and Schauer were coming from or where they were going at the time of the
6 a.m. Jan. 19 crash.
The disabled box truck had been involved in a crash with a Nissan Titan pickup truck a short time before Zilka drove the Durango into it, police said.
The driver of the pickup, Rodrigo Marin, 42, fled the scene after his wreck and before Zilka crashed into the box truck, police said.
Marin, a Plainfield resident, was later arrested and charged with aggravated driving under the influence, driving on a revoked or suspended license, and leaving the scene of an accident.
Marin’s bond was set at $250,000. He remained in custody at the Will County jail for a month before he posted $25,000 for his release.
Zilka has been free on her own recognizance since her arrest.
On Wednesday, Judge Bennett Braun approved Tomczak's motion to rescind the summary suspension of Zilka's driver's license. A summary suspension is issued when a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing, if chemical testing reveals a blood-
alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher, or if testing reveals any trace of drugs.
Zilka refused to submit to alcohol testing after she was taken to AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, according to an Illinois State Police report.
A motion filed by Tomczak’s law firm claimed Zilka did not refuse to submit to testing.
Tomczak said the suspension was lifted because he filed a petition to rescind it and special prosecutor Bill Elward failed to hold a hearing on the matter within 30 days.
Elward would not discuss the case after Braun handed down his decision Wednesday.
“I got no comment on this one because it’s an ongoing investigation,” Elward said.
Elward was appointed to the case after Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow petitioned the court for a special prosecutor.
Glasgow’s petition claimed it was in the “interest of justice” to appoint a special prosecutor, not only because Zilka is a police officer, but is also a “named victim in a felony aggravated battery case” and is a “witness on a pending aggravated fleeing and attempting to elude” case.
Zilka was placed on paid leave from the police department after her arrest.
Zilka did not attend her court hearing Wednesday morning. Tomczak said Elward allowed her to skip it.
“She was ready to come over here,” Tomczak said of Zilka. “She anticipated being here today.”
Tomczak also said he suspects Elward let the deadline for a hearing on the suspension lapse because of issues with the case.
“I have a gut feeling there wouldn’t have been probable cause,” said Tomczak, who told of learning on the day of the crash that tests revealed Zilka’s blood-alcohol content was below 0.08%.
“I was at the hospital that morning,” Tomczak said. “I believe it was the ISP” who informed him of Zilka’s blood-alcohol content, he said.