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redeyechicago.com

Split verdict in case of 2011 street-racing deaths

By George Houde

Special to the Tribune

6:38 PM CDT, October 10, 2013

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A Cook County jury this evening found a 39-year-old Bartlett accountant guilty of aggravated street racing but acquitted him of a more serious charge that he left the scene of a fatal accident in Hoffman Estates.

The jury in Rolling Meadow branch court deliberated about five hours before reaching its verdict in the case of Timothy Salvesen, who was taken into custody following the verdict on the order of Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kay Hanlon.

Salvesen, a former Marine, faces up to 12 years in prison on the street racing charge, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Mike Clarke. Probation is also possible, Clarke noted.

The jury found that Salvesen was racing with Joseph Paliokaitis, of North Aurora, in the westbound lanes of Golf Road on the night of Jan. 27, 2011, but was not involved in the accident in which Paliokaitis, 32, was killed. Salvesen’s car flipped end-over-end and smashed head-on into a car driven by Migdalia Bloch, 62, who also was killed. Paliokaitis was ejected from his Jaguar before it burst into flames near the intersection of Golf and Bartlett roads.

Prosecutors charged Salvesen with failure to report an accident involving death, a Class 1 felony, but defense attorney Dennis Berkson argued that Salvesen was not involved in the crash and had no responsibility to report it. He said Paliokaitis made the decision to pass a van on the left into oncoming traffic on the two lane highway. 

Berkson told the jury that witnesses to the race and the crash could not place Salvesen’s blue Subaru at the scene of the accident.

“My client had nothing to do with that,” Berkson told the jury. “No one can tell you where my client was at the time of the crash.”

In closing statements, Clarke described Salvesen as someone who lied about his involvement after engaging Paliokaitis in the race and questioned Salvesen’s military abilities. He described the explosion as “something out of Transformers,” referring to the film series.

“He claims he didn’t see the explosion, he wants you to believe that,” Clarke told the jury. “Some kind of Marine he must have been. Ignoring an explosion on a public road that endangered other motorists? Is that what they teach in boot camp?”

Salvesen was charged after another motorist took a cellphone photo of his license plate and tried to follow the two speeding automobiles to report them to police. Following the crash, police traced the license plate to Salvesen’s home.

In an interview with a police officer, Salvesen denied being involved in an accident but said he may have witnessed an accident, according to testimony.

Hanlon scheduled a Nov. 7 hearing for post-trial motions.