Former state trooper Mitchell tries again to get his driver's license reinstated

News-DemocratNovember 6, 2013 

Matt Mitchell in a BND file photo.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

Former state trooper Matt Mitchell hopes a new strategy will help him eventually regain his driver's license, his attorney said Wednesday.

Mitchell was in Mount Vernon on Wednesday for a hearing with a Secretary of State hearing officer in his latest bid to get his driver's license reinstated. He was rejected after a July hearing in which he asked for full reinstatement.

"At that time Mr. Mitchell was living in Texas," attorney J. Israel Slone said. "Now he's living in Carlyle and, as an alternative to full reinstatement, we've asked for a driving permit so he can drive his daughter to school. It would be something of a probationary period."

Slone said Illinois doesn't offer driving permits to out-of-state residents. So that wasn't an option when he lived with his sister in Texas.

Mitchell lives about 1.1 miles from his 11-year-old daughter's school. Slone said he could potentially ask for more freedom to drive if Mitchell is able to land a job.

Mitchell lost his driving privileges in the aftermath of a Nov. 23, 2007, crash that killed a pair of metro-east sisters, Jessica and Kelli Uhl. It was determined Mitchell was driving his police cruiser at 126 mph while typing on an in-dash computer and talking on his cellphone at the time of the crash. He lost control and slid through the median of Interstate 64 near O'Fallon and collided with oncoming traffic.

The girls' mother, Kim Schlau, was not able to attend the Wednesday hearing because she had a speaking engagement out of state. But she said in July that, while she figured it would be impossible to keep Mitchell off the road indefinitely, it was her wish that he was never again allowed behind the wheel.

Slone declined to speculate on the outcome of the hearing.

"I thought the hearing went well," Slone said. "But after the last hearing I don't want to make any predictions. At the last one the hearing officer recommended him for full reinstatement. But the Secretary of State overruled it."

Slone said Mitchell recently moved back to the area because he was living with his sister in Texas and she could no longer afford to financially support him.

Mitchell, who promised at his July hearing that he would never again reside in Illinois, said he can't find work because he is not allowed to drive.

According to the Illinois Secretary of State's office, Mitchell is eligible to apply for reinstatement every three months. This is his fourth try to get his license back.

His most recent bid to get his license back was denied because Secretary of State's Office leaders determined "he has not satisfactorily accepted responsibility for his conduct."

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.