Prosecutors to try new argument for detainment of DeKalb man charged in DUI crash that killed deputy

Nathan P. Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb expected to be arraigned Monday on reckless homicide, DUI charges

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 – Prosecutors plan to again appeal to a judge Monday for the detainment of a DeKalb man accused of driving under the influence of drugs and causing a March crash that killed DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil.

According to DeKalb County court records, Scott Schwertley of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office will point to a McHenry County case to help his argument that 44-year-old Nathan P. Sweeney should be held in the Ogle County Jail as he awaits criminal proceedings. Sweeney was held in Ogle County until his April 8 release instead of in Sycamore because the DeKalb County Jail is operated by the sheriff’s office.

Schwertley on April 15 filed a motion asking Buick to reconsider detaining Sweeney.

“The randomness of this tragedy also makes this defendant so dangerous,” Schwertley wrote in the court filings. “Court-ordered drug tests will not mitigate the threat.”

Sweeney is charged with three counts of DUI of drugs causing death and one count of reckless homicide, all Class 2 felonies.

Prosecutors have alleged that Sweeney got behind the wheel of a Kenworth truck knowing he was under the influence of drugs. Sweeney’s truck rear-ended Musil’s squad car about 10:30 p.m. March 28 in Waterman, authorities have said. Musil, 35, a mother of three and military veteran who served in Afghanistan, had been on duty parked on the side of the road, according to the Illinois State Police. She died from her injuries in the early morning of March 29.

DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy Christina Musil, 35, a five-year member of the office, was killed Thursday, March 28, 2024, after her squad car was rear-ended by a truck, according to the Illinois State Police. Musil also was a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, the sheriff's office said.

If convicted, Sweeney faces between three and 14 years in prison. He’s expected to appear in person before DeKalb County Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick at 9 a.m. Monday for arraignment and a hearing on prosecutors’ motion to reconsider whether he remains free.

Sweeney was released by Buick on April 8 against prosecutors’ recommendation. The high-profile case and death of a deputy brought hundreds to DeKalb to mourn Musil earlier this month.

Prosecutors said that a case in nearby McHenry County could be used to sway Buick’s opinion, according to court records.

On April 9, justices from the Illinois Appellate Court 2nd District upheld a McHenry County judicial ruling that ordered the detention of Max P. McNamara, 31, of Lakemoor, records show. McNamara is accused of driving drunk before causing a fatal wreck that killed a Rockford man who was on his way home from a family wedding Oct. 1.

McNamara faces similar charges to Sweeney: McNamara was charged with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence in an accident causing death, Class 2 felonies, according to the complaint filed in McHenry County court.

McNamara allegedly had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his system at the time of the crash near Harvard that killed DeJan Kuljanin, 21. McNamara had been out of jail since then on a misdemeanor DUI charge.

McHenry Country prosecutors, much like in Sweeney’s case, had argued that releasing McNamara would be “a severe risk to the community.” They cited McNamara’s blood test, which allegedly showed that he had cocaine and amphetamine in his system at the time of the crash. McHenry County prosecutor Brian Miller also cited McNamara’s criminal history, including a 2017 DUI conviction out of Wisconsin.

McHenry County Chief Judge Michael Chmie ordered McNamara to be detained.

Prosecutors have argued that releasing Sweeney would put the public at risk, pointing to his alleged substance abuse history and that he’d previously been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs.

Sweeney pleaded guilty in 2020 in Kane County court to Class 1 possession of heroine and driving under the influence drugs, prosecutors have said. He was sentenced to probation. His plea agreement, however, included a stipulation that if he successfully completed his probation, a Kane County judge would remove his conviction from the record. He did and it was, according to the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office.

While released, Sweeney is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle, meaning he will not be able to work. Buick also ordered that he submit to at least three randomized drug tests per week conducted by Kendall County pretrial court services. He also is prohibited from taking any nonprescribed drugs. Sweeney surrendered his driver’s license to the court April 9, records show.

In his response to the state’s latest filing arguing for Sweeney’s detainment last week, Sweeney’s defense attorney John Kopp mirrored arguments that he previously made, records show. He said Buick’s ruling should be upheld, arguing that stipulations set by Buick help ensure Sweeney won’t hurt anyone while free.

Preliminary lab test results from the Illinois State Police forensics lab show that 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. State police 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 to 2020 for buprenorphine-naxolene, which Schwertley said is used to treat opioid dependency or addiction.

SAFE-T Act reacts

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, otherwise known as 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 that the defendant committed the crime; release of the defendant would endanger the public; no conditions placed on the defendant, if released, was sufficient to reduce any threat.

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

In her April 8 ruling, Buick said the SAFE-T Act has made pretrial release hearings “complicated,” but stressed the case still was in its early days.

Her order has thrust the SAFE-T Act back into the spotlight. In the days since, law enforcement groups and politicians across northern Illinois have pointed to the ruling as an example of why they believe the new law doesn’t work.

“Obviously, we are very disappointed that Sweeney was released despite the DeKalb County state’s attorney request to detain,” according to a statement from the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association.

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