An appeals court has thrown out the six-year prison sentence for a Spring Grove man convicted in a 2016 drunk driving crash that left his female passenger dead.
Ryan J. Heineman, 39, of Spring Grove, was found guilty by a jury of two counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, a Class 2 felony, in February 2019.
Prosecutors said that Heineman was found wandering on the side of the road on Route 12 near Sunset Road in Spring Grove on June 26, 2016.
His Jeep was found smashed into a tree a short distance from the road, prosecutors said.
Tanya McDonough, 33, who was a passenger in the Jeep and Heineman’s longtime friend, was found lying in the ditch nearby.
McDonough was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
Heineman admitted to police that he had been drinking and prosecutors said he had injuries consistent with driver’s-side seat belt impact contusions.
Heineman was taken to the hospital to get his blood drawn. Prosecutors said that his blood alcohol concentration was .131, which is over the .08 limit in Illinois.
After a jury convicted the man, now-retired McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather sentenced him to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
During a March 2019 hearing after Heineman was convicted and before his sentencing hearing, the man requested a different lawyer who was “more versed in the post-trial motions.”
Prather denied Heineman’s request and said that his current attorney was “in a much better position to file a post-trial motion.” Prather also called Heineman’s request a “delay tactic.”
Heineman appealed the case to the Illinois Second District Appellate Court, arguing that the trial court improperly denied his post-trial motion to substitute counsel.
In a 2-1 ruling on September 30, the appeals court agreed that Prather did not support her finding that Heineman’s post-trial request was a “delay tactic.”
The appeals court affirmed Heineman’s conviction but vacated his six-year sentence. The appeals court has ordered for new post-trial proceedings.
Heineman remains held in the Western Illinois Correctional Center, records show.
An appeal status hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in McHenry County Circuit Court.