COOK COUNTY COURTHOUSE — A judge Monday lowered the bond of a Lakeview man charged with reckless homicide in the wrong-way crash that killed a University of Chicago law student.
For the second consecutive day, 23-year-old Erik Johnson appeared in court on charges that he was drunk early Friday morning when he entered Lake Shore Drive via the Grand Avenue exit and smashed head-on into a taxi headed northbound.
On impact, Laura Anne LaPlante, 26, and a 24-year-old companion were both partially ejected from the cab and onto Lake Shore Drive, where the roadway curves just south of the Chicago River, said Assistant Cook County State's Attorney Claire Savaglio.
Another car stopped to help, Savaglio said. One person helped Johnson, who was trapped by an airbag, get out of his car.
"[Johnson] appeared to have urinated in his pants and appeared to be intoxicated," Savaglio said. "The witness helped the defendant to the median ... [where] he urinated on the median."
In an ambulance on the way to Stroger Hospital, Johnson allegedly admitted to paramedics that he had had five or six beers and shots of alcohol at a friend's party before driving, Savaglio said. His blood alcohol level later allegedly tested at .195.
LaPlante was pronounced dead at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at 6:33 p.m., according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. University officials confirmed she was enrolled in the law school.
The man in the cab with her suffered severe head trauma, deformities and fractures in both legs, broken ribs and sternum and a collapsed lung, Savaglio said. The cab driver's elbow was broken in the crash.
Johnson was ordered held on $750,000 bail when he appeared in court Sunday.
On Monday, Johnson's attorney argued that his bail amount be reduced, saying that Johnson had a job and a roommate who had agreed to drive him to work.
Judge Donald Panarese Jr. agreed to set bail at $500,000, meaning Johnson's family has to come up with $50,000 to bond him out.
LaPlante was a student leader at U. of C. and was expected to graduate this year and join WilmerHale, a law firm in Boston where she had interned.
"Laura was such a beautiful, kind and giving person. She always lived her life to the fullest, and she was deeply loved by everyone who had the blessing of knowing her," Emily Heasley said in a statement released by the university over the weekend.