DeKalb man pleads not guilty to causing DUI crash that killed sheriff’s deputy

Nathan P. Sweeney, 44, of DeKalb to remain free pending trial as judge tightens his conditions,

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 – Nathan P. Sweeney of DeKalb pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that allege he drove under the influence of drugs and caused a March 28 crash in Waterman that killed DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christina Musil while she was on duty.

Sweeney appeared in person in Circuit Court Judge Marcy Buick’s courtroom Monday. He’s been free on release since April 8 and under strict conditions that prohibit him from driving and require regular drug testing.

Prosecutors’ second bid to appeal for his detainment failed Monday in front of a courtroom packed with Musil’s colleagues and family. Deputies lined the rows in the gallery flanked by DeKalb County Sheriff Andy Sullivan and State’s Attorney Rick Amato.

Although she denied prosecutors’ requests to reconsider her order that freed Sweeney from imprisonment at Ogle County Jail pending trial, Buick issued new pretrial stipulations that he must follow. Sweeney is to be outfitted by Thursday with what’s known as a SCRAM device, meant to be worn on the wrist and monitor alcohol-intake in real time.

“The reason is to try to close all avenues for the defendant to become under the influence or intoxicated such that the defendant’s judgement is impaired,” Buick said.

The 44-year-old appeared alert and responsive to Buick throughout the hearing, wearing a black suit, light blue button-up shirt and striped blue tie, sporting a beard and what appeared to be tattoos lining his neck.

One family member of Musil – a 35-year-old mother of three and veteran who served in Afghanistan and was just five years in to her career with the sheriff’s office – stared at Sweeney as Buick read his charges. The high-profile case and death of a deputy brought hundreds to DeKalb to mourn Musil earlier this month.

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.

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 to 14 years in prison and fines up to $25,000.

Through his defense lawyer John Kopp, Sweeney elected to put his fate in the hands of his peers during a jury trial.

“There’s no reason that the court should just flip flop its original decision,” Kopp said in argument to Buick to keep his client out of jail.

Buick again cited provisions that went into effect Sept. 18 from the Pretrial Fairness Act, known as the SAFE-T Act, which prohibits cash bail in Illinois. The new law also changed the way judges must determine a person’s eligibility for release from jail.

“This is not the penalty phase or the punishment phase after a finding of guilty,” Buick said.

She said judges across the state are still “grappling” with how to interpret the new law, and that judges must adhere to it regardless of public pressure or whether or not they agree. Buick said its her duty to treat all defendants fairly.

“All persons are eligible for release,” Buick said. “There is no exception ... not even for first-degree murder or DUI causing death, not even if that person was a law enforcement officer who died in the performance of their duties.”

SAFE-T Act provisions cite Sweeney’s charges as detainable. Prosecutors, however, must provide compelling evidence to argue that no stipulations of release is sufficient enough to mitigate community risk.

Buick’s ruling determined that Sweeney’s release did pose a risk to the DeKalb County community. She affirmed, however, that rules she set for his release would mitigate that threat.

In addition to the SCRAM wrist monitor, Sweeney also is prohibited from consuming marijuana in any form, Buick ordered Monday.

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 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.

Assistant state’s attorneys Scott Schwertley and Suzanne Collins of the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office said they feared that drug testing Sweeney, who’s alleged to have abused drugs not alcohol, would not be enough to deter him from getting behind the wheel again.

“Drug testing doesn’t lesson and cannot lesson the risks,” Schwertley said, arguing Sweeney’s alleged actions show a propensity for breaking the law.

As part of her orders earlier this month, Buick has prohibited Sweeney, who worked as a commercial truck driver for a living, from driving. He surrendered his driver’s license to court officials April 9, according to court records. He’s also prohibited from taking any medicine or drugs other than what he’s been prescribed.

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 March 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.

He’s next ordered to appear for a status hearing at 9 a.m. June 6.

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