Plea offer withdrawn in fatal Skokie car crash case
By MIKE ISAACS | firstname.lastname@example.org January 24, 2013 2:10PM
Hanin Goma, charged in connection with a traffic crash that killed 9-year-old Carter Vo last May, no longer has a plea agreement to consider. The court Thursday withdrew the offer.| File photo
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:33AM
Hanin Goma will no longer get to decide whether to accept a plea agreement in connection with her car crash last May that killed a 9-year-old boy out for a bike ride on a sidewalk in Skokie.
Goma, appearing in court Thursday on a charge of aggravated driving under the influence of drugs, asked for more time to decide whether to take the plea. Only a week earlier, she requested that the victim’s family be in court — ostensibly to make her decision.
But that decision never came.
“This is bordering on torture,” said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Cathy Crowley in reference to bringing the victim’s family to court without resolution.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Lauren Gottainer Eden said she can’t force a defendant to accept a plea agreement, but she quickly declared that the court’s offer is now withdrawn.
Goma, 23 and a Skokie resident, appeared surprised by the judge’s announcement.
Neither the state or Goma has ever revealed the terms of the plea agreement, but the victim’s father, Nho Vo, said it called for five years of jail time. Without a plea agreement, Goma could serve at least 85 percent of a three- to 14-year sentence if found guilty.
On Feb. 7, Goma’s next scheduled court date, she could ask to go to trial or make an open plea. But if Goma didn’t want to leave her fate to jurors, her best option appeared to have been the plea agreement, which is now gone.
Authorities say Goma struck and killed Carter Vo May 21 while out for a bike ride near Main Street and St. Louis Avenue. She was also cited for failing to yield at a stop intersection and failure to provide proof of valid insurance.
Traveling south on St. Louis while trying to turn left on Main, Goma allegedly hit an eastbound vehicle, losing control of her car. She struck the boy and dragged him and his bicycle about 150 feet before colliding with a parked car, authorities say.
Police said Goma admitted to smoking marijuana the day of the crash. Blood tests also showed marijuana and amphetamines in her system, they said.
Goma’s lawyer only a week ago said the defendant wanted to read a letter in court before announcing her decision about the plea agreement. But Crowley said she would never accept a statement and a plea agreement without the family in court.
That’s why Carter Vo’s parents were told to come to court Thursday.
Goma never made her statement, and although the letter was collected by the court, it has not been read and probably will not until at least sentencing, court officials said.
Vo’s parents Thursday waited for hours for the case to be called — only to learn there would be no plea. “It’s really out of my hands but I feel this was a waste of time,” Nho Vo said.
The Vos were comforted in court by Sharon Johnson, a victim advocate for The Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists who has been helping the family.
Johnson called the tragedy “heartbreaking” and said it’s difficult for the family to appear in court.