Judge releases DeKalb man accused in DUI crash that killed Deputy Christina Musil

Court records allege Nathan P. Sweeney didn’t apply truck brakes until after March 28 crash that killed sheriff’s deputy

Nathan P. Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb, was arrested and charged Wednesday, April 3, 2024, with DUI and reckless homicide in the March 28, 2024, crash that killed DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy Christina Musil, 35, a military veteran and mother of three. (Inset photo provided by Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle.)

SYCAMORE – A DeKalb County judge on Monday ordered the release of Nathan P. Sweeney, who is accused of driving under the influence of drugs and causing the crash that killed DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil.

In her ruling to another packed courtroom filled with Musil’s loved ones and fellow deputies, Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick cited the SAFE-T Act and its new legal guidelines that require different factors to be considered when deciding when to detain someone charged with a crime. The SAFE-T Act also eliminated cash bail in Illinois.

“Under the new law, all defendants are presumed to be eligible for pretrial release,” Buick said. “[...]We have all learned over the last six months that these hearings are complicated. ... Judges are required to uphold and apply the law.”

Prosecutors Monday had argued that blood tests which allegedly show multiple drugs were in Sweeney’s system at the time of the crash prove he willingly got behind the wheel of a truck while under the influence and caused the March 28 crash that killed Musil, 35, a mother of three and a military veteran who served in Afghanistan. Sweeney’s criminal history also allegedly showed a pattern of “erratic driving,” Scott Schwertley said in his argument.

“The defendant has shown that he does not follow the law’s direction,” Schwertley said, arguing that any conditions Buick could set to ensure Sweeney cooperated with pretrial release would not be enough.

Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb has been held at Ogle County Jail in Oregon since his arrest Wednesday by Illinois State Police.

He was ordered released Monday, although Buick listed a multitude of conditions that Sweeney must abide by while released. He’s prohibited from operating a motor vehicle through the duration of his proceedings meaning he will not be able to work, and he must submit to at least three randomized drug tests per week.

“The defendant’s apparent opioid addiction has come to light in a tragedy,” Buick said.

The drug tests and pretrial stipulations will be monitored by Kendall County court officials instead of DeKalb County, court officials said.

Buick’s ruling was against arguments made by prosecutors of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office, which had filed a motion Friday to deny release to Sweeney.

Preliminary lab test results from the ISP forensics lab show Sweeney had three drugs in his system at the time of the crash, according to DeKalb County court records filed April 5: fentanyl, cocaine and morphine. The ISP collected blood and urine samples from Sweeney through a search warrant that night, court records show.

According to court records, Sweeney has a prescription dating back to 2020 for buprenorphine-naxolene, which Schwertley said is used to treat opioid dependency or addiction.

Geneva-based defense attorney John Kopp, who represents Sweeney, said that his client stands on his presumed innocence. In his argument for Sweeney’s release, Kopp cited the pending criminal case of James Corralejo of DeKalb, who works as a police officer in suburban Cook County. On Nov. 5, while off duty, Corralejo allegedly drove drunk and caused a crash on South Seventh Street in DeKalb that killed 59-year-old Graciela Reza Contreras, also of DeKalb.

Corralejo has been out on pretrial release as ordered by Circuit Court Judge Philip Montgomery and also has pleaded not guilty to similar charges of reckless homicide and DUI casing death.

“I would argue that the assertion that my client is violent is unsupported,” Kopp said.

Sweeney is charged with three counts of DUI of drugs causing death and one count of reckless homicide, all Class 2 felonies. If convicted, he could face between three and 14 years in prison.

Under the SAFE-T Act, Sweeney’s charges are detainable. However, prosecutors must prove and a judge must rule that detention is necessary if three criteria are met: enough clear evidence exists to sufficiently presume the defendant committed the crime; release of the defendant would be a danger to the public and; no pretrial conditions placed on the defendant if released can be sufficient to reduce the threat.

Buick ruled that strict conditions could be set to mitigate Sweeney’s threat to the public when released.

A photo of fallen DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil is displayed Thursday, April 4, 2024, during her visitation and funeral in the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University. Musil, 35, was killed March 28 while on duty after a truck rear-ended her police vehicle in Waterman.

Court records allege Sweeney didn’t apply truck brakes until after crash

New details provided in court records also allege that Sweeney’s cell phone automatically called 911 at the time of the crash on Illinois Route 23, a ¼ mile south of Perry Road in Waterman.

Sweeney took photos of the crash on his phone, sent the location of the crash to his girlfriend, and told police he tried to wake Musil up, Illinois State Police reports filed in DeKalb County court allege.

Sweeney was taken into police custody by ISP at the crash site in the early morning hours March 29, records show.

“During an interview with ISP Investigators Sweeney displayed symptoms of impairment, as he was sleepy, uninterested, paranoid, emotional and had a limited ability to focus or concentrate,” Illinois State Police wrote in court records. “Sweeney told ISP Investigators that he tried to ‘wake him up,’ referring to the deceased Officer.”

Court records also allege that Sweeney was driving at 71 mph and did not apply the brakes on his commercial Kenworth truck until after the fatal crash. His truck rear-ended Musil’s squad car so severely that the back end of her vehicle was pushed forward into the front part of the SUV, according to court records.

After Sweeney was arrested at his DeKalb home by ISP on April 4, he was transported to the DeKalb Police Department and interviewed again, records show. Police alleged Sweeney again showed signs of impairment, describing him in court records as “sleepy/could barely keep his eyes open, uninterested, paranoid, emotional and had a limited ability to focus or concentrate.”

“Sweeney at times would ramble on about things that did not have anything to do with the questions being asked,” police wrote in court records.

During that interview, Sweeney also told police the vehicle he hit was in the roadway and he did not see it.

Police allege, however, that evidence shows that Musil’s squad car – which had its headlights and parking lights on – was clearly parked on the right side shoulder at the time of the crash.

Kopp early Monday morning filed a request that “the entire DeKalb County judiciary” recuse itself from the case. Buick denied that request during Monday’s hearing.

In his argument, Kopp alleged Sweeney wouldn’t get a fair trial because the courthouse was closed partially Thursday for Musil’s funeral which he alleged some court officials attended. He also argued that because a sheriff’s office squad car memorial was set up in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore the weekend immediately following the fatal crash, DeKalb County court officials were biased.

“Without question we understand the need to grieve,” Kopp said. “[...] However this leads me to believe my client won’t be allowed a fair and impartial trial.”

Buick said the courthouse was only closed until 3 p.m. Thursday because the majority of DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies – who are in charge of maintaining security in the courthouse building – were attending the funeral.

“You’re creating a perception that the DeKalb County judiciary is biased,” Buick said in response. “It’s factually incorrect.”

Sweeney is next ordered to appear in person for a status hearing at 9:45 a.m. April 16 in front of Buick. He’s expected to appear April 19 before a DeKalb County Grand Jury.

This story was updated at 6:12 p.m. on April 8, 2024.

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