Driver in fatal DUI crash: ‘I’m truly sorry’
By Janet Lundquist email@example.com July 1, 2013 10:40PM
Jason R. Rymut
Updated: August 3, 2013 6:42AM
Last August, Bryan Bulger was out for a spin in his pride and joy — a 1978 Chevrolet Camaro that he had lovingly restored.
The car was a long-term project for Bulger and his father. When Bulger earned a master’s degree in criminology a few months earlier, his dad gave it to him as a gift.
It was about 10:15 p.m. Aug. 8 when Bulger stopped his car at Cedar and Delaney roads in Manhattan.
That night, Jason Rymut, 32, had been out drinking to celebrate a career victory. He was speeding toward the intersection and Bulger’s Camaro, using his cellphone, and slammed into the back of Bulger’s car at about 83 mph, police said.
The impact spun Bulger’s Camaro into a third car that was passing through the intersection. Bulger, 26, was killed. A passenger in his vehicle was injured. The car was crushed beyond recognition, Bulger’s family said.
“Always hug your kids and tell them that you love them because you never know if that will be the last time you’ll see them,” Bulger’s mother, Cheryl Bulger, said Monday during Rymut’s sentencing hearing in Will County Circuit Court. “My life was forever changed by a drunk driver. My life will never be the same.”
Rymut, of 24956 Clare Circle, Manhattan, pleaded guilty April 18 to aggravated drunken driving.
After the crash in August, Bulger was extricated from the wreck and airlifted to Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he died. His female passenger was treated at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox. The driver of the third vehicle, which was also totaled, was not injured.
“The speed (Rymut) was going while using a cellphone is beyond reckless,” Assistant State’s Attorney James Long told the judge Monday. “That really left Bryan Bulger with no chance.”
Long said Rymut initially denied he was drinking but later admitted he had been. While he passed field sobriety tests at the crash scene, his blood-alcohol level was found to be .121, Long said.
He said Rymut has five previous speeding convictions and one DUI conviction.
The fatal crash was a life-changing experience for Rymut, said his attorney, George Lenard.
Since then, Rymut — who has a fiancee, a 2-year-old son and a 15-year-old stepson — has undergone counseling, completed community service and offered to speak to young people about the danger of drunken driving, Lenard said. He presented Judge Daniel Rozak with 85 character reference letters submitted on Rymut’s behalf.
At the end of Monday’s hearing, Rymut stood and faced Bulger’s family and friends, who were seated in the courtroom.
“I want to apologize to the Bulger family,” he said, his voice cracking with emotion. “I acted immaturely and irresponsibly that night, and I’m truly sorry.”
Rymut also apologized to his family.
“I just want to be a role model and a provider for my family, and I feel like I’ve let you down,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
Rymut is scheduled to be sentenced July 26 and faces up to 14 years in prison.
Lenard asked Rozak to consider sentencing Rymut to probation and asked for the minimum prison term if the judge decided incarceration was necessary.
Long told Rozak that Rymut’s actions warranted imprisonment.
“(The Bulgers) can’t have their son back,” he said. “The defendant’s still sitting there. He’s alive, and that’s not fair.”