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Driver pleads guilty to leaving fatal Decatur crash

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DECATUR — Malik O. Lewis told a judge Tuesday that he admitted leaving the scene of a Decatur crash that took the life of a woman pregnant with her first child.

Lewis, 24, took a plea deal negotiated by defense attorney Paul Chiligiris which will cap any prison sentence in the case at a maximum of seven years.

But the sentencing, set for Sept. 9, will be an open and contested hearing, with defense and prosecution arguing their sides and the final decision made by Macon County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Geisler. At the lighter end of the sentencing range, the judge could impose a term of probation or conditional discharge.

The case dates to the night of May 25, 2020, when Assistant Macon County State’s Attorney Timothy Tighe told Tuesday’s disposition hearing that Lewis had run a red light and collided with another vehicle at the intersection of East Condit and North Jasper streets.

The crash inflicted fatal injuries on Jameela Cunningham, 27, four months pregnant at the time, who was later pronounced dead after being rushed to hospital. Decatur police reports in the wake of the accident listed three other people as being injured but surviving.

Those reports also said Lewis was traveling up to 70 mph in a 35 mph speed zone when the collision occurred.

Chiligiris told Geisler that the defense would dispute that Lewis ran a red light but did not argue the basic details of the accident; the question of speed was not brought up in Tuesday's court hearing.

Police reports said Lewis had been traced using DNA evidence and Tighe told the judge “it was two full days” after the accident before the defendant came forward to talk to officers.

Lewis remains free on bail set at $150,000 after posting a $15,000 bond.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, argued on Tuesday for the need to allow student loan borrowers to discharge their loans in bankruptcy. "Forty-five million Americans carry student loan debt—and they’re not just young people," he said. "Eight million are over the age of 50—and some are now just learning that their Social Security checks are being garnished to pay their debt. These loans are with you for life."

Contact Tony Reid at (217) 421-7977. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyJReid


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