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Oregon man loses request to exclude reports from fatal crash trial

OREGON – A judge has rejected the defense’s request to exclude IDNR reports from evidence in the DUI/reckless homicide trial of an Oregon boater.

The prejudice the reports may engender “does not rise to a level which warrants the extreme measure of exclusion,” Judge John Redington said in his two-sentence ruling, filed Thursday in Ogle County Circuit Court.

Rochelle attorney David Tess, who is representing Marc Mongan, 47, asked Redington to exclude the 149-page report and videos from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which investigated the crash that took the life of Megan Wells, 31, of Rockford.

Wells was killed June 24, 2016, on the Rock River, about 3 miles north of Oregon when a johnboat Mongan was operating struck her as it went over the back of the pontoon boat she was riding in, throwing her overboard.

Mongan is charged with one count of aggravated DUI alcohol, which carries 3 to 7 years in prison; three counts of reckless homicide, each of which carries 2 to 5 years; and three counts of reckless conduct, all punishable by
1 to 3 years.

His trial is set to begin Feb. 14.

At a motions hearing Dec. 19, Tess argued that the IDNR report and videos should be excluded because they have been disseminated to the public, which could taint the jury pool and make cross-examining witnesses more difficult.

By law, he said, such investigative records are not to be released when making them public could interfere with the case, and noted that prosecutors and defense attorneys are prohibited from doing so. 

The IDNR released the reports and videos to Wells’ family members after they filed a Freedom of Information Act request; they subsequently were posted on the internet and sent to various media outlets.

The IDNR should have denied the FOIA request, Tess said.

Special prosecutor David Neal, from the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Appellate Prosecutor’s office, agreed that the internet postings might make it harder for the court to select a jury.

The IDNR, though, simply released the records to the victim’s family, and so “acted appropriately under the law,” Neal said.

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