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Driver in fatal road rage crash found guilty of felony DUI

Michael J. Moreno | Courtesy Photo~Naperville Police Department

Michael J. Moreno | Courtesy Photo~Naperville Police Department

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Updated: April 29, 2013 11:52AM

A driver who used marijuana and cocaine before triggering a deadly road rage crash in Naperville faces a possible 29-year prison term after being convicted Wednesday of felony DUI.

DuPage County prosecutors argued 32-year-old Michael Moreno caused the June 13 crash when he turned left through oncoming traffic while angrily chasing another car he claimed had previously cut him off.

The guilty verdict issued by Judge George Bakalis brought some relief to relatives of 63-year-old Gerald Puglise, who died when his motorcycle slammed into Moreno’s Infiniti M45 sedan at Ogden Avenue and River Road.

“We’re very happy with the verdict but we miss him dearly,” said his son, Matt, one of about 15 friends and family members who assembled in the Wheaton courtroom for the hearing.

Puglise, a retired electrician and Vietnam veteran, wasn’t involved in the initial traffic altercation with Moreno but was killed while returning to his Lombard home after meeting a friend.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Matt Puglise said.

The 5 p.m. crash happened while Moreno was chasing a car driven by a 16-year-old girl, whom he claimed had cut him off moments earlier, prosecutors said during his trial.

Both cars briefly stopped along the road and Moreno contended a passenger in that car had punched and threatened him. Moreno was following that vehicle to snap a picture of its license plate when the crash happened, defense attorney Paul DeLuca had argued.

Tests also indicated Gerald Puglise had alcohol and a prescription painkiller in his body when the collision occurred, DeLuca noted, though prosecutors contended his actions played no role in the crash.

Bakalis in his ruling convicted Moreno of felony DUI, as well as leaving the scene of a fatal crash, obstruction of justice and possession of cannabis.

Puglise’s relatives said they want the Plainfield man sent to prison.

“He shouldn’t be allowed to do this to other people,” said Puglise’s widow, Peggy Datoli.

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