Michael Szot sentenced to four years probation with one year of periodic imprisonment

Madeline Fox, Campus Editor

WHEATON, Illinois — Former Northwestern student Michael Szot was sentenced Thursday to four years of probation including one year of periodic imprisonment for aggravated driving under the influence in the car accident that killed an NU student and another passenger.

During his periodic imprisonment, Szot can leave prison for work, school or community service. He must report to jail April 4. He must complete 200 hours of community service in the form of speaking engagements about his accident, and he will be monitored to ensure he is not using alcohol or drugs.

Szot, who has not attended NU since before the July 19, 2014 accident, was a rising McCormick senior when the accident occurred. He pled guilty to one count of aggravated DUI causing death in August 2015 after initially pleading not guilty.

Szot drove his car into a water-filled quarry after drinking with the car’s two passengers at a bar in Naperville, Illinois. Szot escaped the car and survived, but Mihirtej Boddupalli, who was also a rising McCormick senior, and Sajaad Safiullah Syed, a 21-year-old Naperville resident and friend of Boddupalli’s, both died in the crash.

Under his guilty plea, Szot could have served from six to 28 years in prison, but was eligible for probation if the judge found extraordinary circumstances in his case. Judge Brian Telander cited letters written on Szot’s behalf by former teachers, bosses, friends and community leaders testifying to Szot’s character in his decision to sentence Szot to probation.

Telander also noted Szot’s lack of violations since the incident, his cooperation with police, his history of volunteering and his academic record — he is now enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago — as factors in his decision.

Members of the victims’ families were present at the Thursday hearing, where Szot’s therapist, the police officers who responded to the scene and one of the detectives who took Szot’s confession testified.

Both victims’ families met with Szot on Wednesday evening at his lawyer’s office in a meeting requested by Boddupalli’s mother, said his lawyer, Jeff Fawell. Both families advocated for leniency in Szot’s sentencing during the hearing, and embraced Szot after the judge ruled to give him probation.

“His remorse and his apologies are tremendous,” said Dilshad Ikramullah, Syed’s mother, during the hearing. “I could not imagine separating a mother and her son.”

Fawell said he’d never seen anything like the lengths both families went to on Szot’s behalf.

“They wanted to be there for Michael and to be in court with him,” Fawell told The Daily.

At the time of the accident, Szot’s blood alcohol content was 0.14. The legal limit is 0.08. Szot also admitted he smoked marijuana prior to the accident, and one of the witnesses at the Thursday hearing testified to finding marijuana paraphernalia in Szot’s possession.

Dhruv Boddupalli, who read a statement at the hearing by members of his family that recalled memories of his brother and urged leniency in Szot’s sentencing, said he was pleased with the judge’s decision.

“These were the wishes of Mihir and Sajaad, and I’m glad we could be here to support what they wanted,” he told The Daily. “We know Mike will honor their lives by continuing his.”

This story was updated March 10 at 5:45 pm. 

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