Mitchell's attorney outraged his client can't get license back

News-DemocratFebruary 6, 2014 

Matt Mitchell in a BND file photo.

ZIA NIZAMI/BND

Former Illinois State Police trooper Matt Mitchell's latest bid to get his driver's license reinstated has been denied, according to a spokesman for the family of two sisters killed by a crash with the former law enforcement officer.

David Craig said the victims' mother, Kim Schlau, got the news of the denial from the Illinois Secretary of State's Office on Thursday morning. The Schlau family did not comment about the decision.

Mitchell's attorney said Thursday that he was shocked and outraged that the appeal was turned down.

J. Israel Slone, Mitchell's attorney, said the case hearing officer this time recommended Mitchell get his license back only to have an anonymous Secretary of State's office official in Springfield overrule the decision and deny Mitchell's appeal, like in his third appeal hearing last summer.

"I have literally been involved in thousands of these hearings on both sides and I have never seen a person have as much trouble as this getting their license back," Slone said. "I have seen people with three or four driving under the influence convictions get their license back."

Slone said he fears the high profile of Mitchell's case has caused someone with the state to decide it would be bad publicity to ever let Mitchell get his license back.

"It's a bad situation, what happened," Slone said. "It was terrible. But they won't let this man get on with his life. He would like to get a job and be a productive member of society and they won't let him have a license so he can drive his 11-year-old daughter a little more than a mile to school."

Slone said he has filed an administrative review request in Jefferson County court in regard to the third appeal attempt and may add the fourth to the case. He hopes to figure out who is blocking Mitchell's effort to get his license back and why. In the meantime, he said he plans to continue to appeal for reinstatement again and again.

This was Mitchell's fourth try to get his license back after a Nov. 23, 2007, crash in which his police cruiser crossed the center line and smashed into oncoming traffic. Jessica and Kelli Uhl were killed in the impact. The stretch of Interstate 64 near O'Fallon where the crash happened is now named in memory of the sisters.

The investigation of the case determined Mitchell had been driving 126 mph while talking on his cellphone and typing on an in-dash computer when he lost control. He was rushing to a scene of an accident that had already been cleared.

Schlau said after Mitchell's third hearing that she doubted it would be possible to keep the former state trooper from ever getting his license back. But she wasn't ready to see him on the road yet.

Mitchell is allowed, under the law, to apply for reinstatement every three months. There is no limit to how many times he can apply.

Mitchell pleaded guilty in 2010 to reckless driving and was sentenced to 30 months of probation.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 618-239-2626.