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Fox River & Countryside firefighter accused in fatal DUI crash free on bond

John Yanni III, 25, has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and improper lane use in connection with a crash on Route 38 east of Peace Road that killed 18-year-old Johnathon Ode of DeKalb and seriously injured a 23-year-old Elgin man.
John Yanni III, 25, has been charged with reckless homicide, aggravated DUI and improper lane use in connection with a crash on Route 38 east of Peace Road that killed 18-year-old Johnathon Ode of DeKalb and seriously injured a 23-year-old Elgin man.

SYCAMORE – A firefighter and paramedic accused of drunken driving in connection with a four-vehicle crash that killed a DeKalb High School student was released from jail Jan. 19 after posting bond.

John A. Yanni III, 25, of the 100 block of South 18th Street, St. Charles, has been charged with reckless homicide and two counts of aggravated driving under the influence. If convicted of the most serious offense, aggravated driving under the influence causing death, he could face three to 14 years in prison, DeKalb County Judge Philip Montgomery said Jan. 19. He wouldn't be eligible for probation if convicted of that crime.

Assistant State's Attorney Timothy Mandel asked the judge to keep Yanni's bond at $1 million. He noted that the crash killed Johnathon R. Ode, 18, of DeKalb, and that a passenger in Ode's vehicle, Evan M. Cortez, a 23-year-old Elgin man, remained in surgery at a Rockford hospital.

Yanni's attorney, Liam Dixon, asked the judge to set a lower bond. Yanni, he said, was a lifelong resident of St. Charles and was employed as a firefighter and paramedic at Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District. He also said his client had no criminal record. Nearly a dozen of Yanni's family members and supporters attended the hearing. Dixon said that his client hadn't been given pain medication for a broken knee since he was arrested at Kishwaukee Hospital at 11:20 p.m. Jan. 18.

Judge Montgomery set bond at $10,000, ordered Yanni not to drink alcohol and required that he be fitted with an alcohol-monitoring bracelet. The judge said he was aware of the age of the victim and the affect of the crime on the community. He said he was aware of "the emotional impact on not only the victim's family, but also on the larger community."

"These are not easy decisions for the court to come to," Montgomery said.

In setting bond, the judge said he had to balance the safety of the community with Yanni's right to bond and presumption of innocence.

Several of Yanni's supporters in the courtroom wept when it became clear that he would be released.

Outside the courtroom, Dixon said he thought the judge's decision was fair given the circumstances of the case.

"[Yanni's] heart goes out to the families," Dixon said. He added: "These are tragic cases all around."

At the time of the crash, Yanni was going to his parent's house, Dixon said. He declined to comment on where Yanni was driving from.

The crash occurred about 7:15 p.m. Jan. 17 on Route 38 east of Peace Road, according to a news release from the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office. Police said Yanni was driving a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado pickup west on Route 38 when his vehicle crossed the highway’s center line.

Yanni’s truck first hit a 1995 Ford F-150 pickup driven by River J. Rich, 19, of Cortland, then collided head-on with Ode’s vehicle, a 2000 Ford Taurus, sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said.

After the collision, a 2002 Hyundai Elantra driven by Scott McAdams, 36, of DeKalb, rear-ended Yanni’s truck, police said.

Cortez remained at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford as of noon Jan. 19. A spokesman for the hospital said he was in fair condition. Court documents said Cortez had suffered "great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement" in the crash.

Rich and McAdams were treated for minor injuries, police said.

Yanni has worked at the Fox River & Countryside Fire/Rescue District for the past five years, Fire Chief John Nixon said. The district serves Campton Hills, Wayne and the unincorporated areas of St. Charles and Campton townships. Yanni is employed by Paramedic Safety Services Inc. of Rosemont and has served the district through the company's contract.

Jan. 17 was a scheduled day off for Yanni, Nixon said. He won't be on active duty until his medical and legal issues are resolved, the chief said.

Yanni is next due in court March 10 for a preliminary hearing.

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