Colton Vinovich of Morton told Clay Burger’s family members in court Friday that he will forever share their pain of Burger’s death that he caused while driving drunk last year.
“You are genuinely remorseful,” his judge observed before sentencing Vinovich, 26, to five years in prison for the aggravated DUI crash with Burger’s motorcycle that killed the 64-year-old Creve Coeur resident.
Still, “You made some bad choices and must be held accountable,” said Tazewell County Associate Judge Frank Ierulli.
“You stood up like a man,” Vinovich’s father told him after his son acknowledged that his alcoholism took Burger’s life.
Vinovich, who starred in football and track at Pekin Community High School, had no prior criminal record.
Ierulli took that into account when he sentenced Vinovich to one year shy of the maximum term set when Vinovich accepted a plea agreement last April. The crime is punishable by up to 14 years.
Vinovich must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence but was given credit for 406 days that he’s spent in custody since his arrest.
He was driving a Jeep north on Tennessee Road in rural Morton late on June 20, 2017, when he failed to see Burger’s motorcycle heading west on Queenwood Road. Tennessee Road is controlled by a stop sign at the unlit intersection, Queenwood is not.
The broadside collision instantly killed Burger. Vinovich was not injured.
His blood-alcohol content was .173 percent after the accident, more than twice the legal limit. A half-empty bottle of vodka was found in his vehicle, along with more vodka mixed in a bottle of Gatorade, according to hearing testimony.
Vinovich told Ierulli he had drunk every day for a year before the crash.
That day, “I drank all day,” he said in a prepared statement. “I got up and made a drink. I drank during work. I drank after work,” which ended within an hour before the crash.
“If I could trade places with Clay, I would do it in a heartbeat. I’m sorry,” he said.