An Illinois state trooper who killed two teenage sisters in a high-speed collision, driving 126 mph while sending e-mails and speaking to his girlfriend on his cell phone, has filed a workers' compensation claim for injuries he says he sustained in the fatal crash.
Matt Mitchell, who pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving, could have thousands of taxpayer dollars coming to him, angering the family of Kelli and Jessica Uhl, who were 18 and 13, respectively, when their vehicle was struck head-on by Mitchell's patrol car the day after Thanksgiving 2007.
"At least at the beginning, he was a disgrace to his uniform, now I believe he is a disgrace to the human race," said Thomas Q. Keefe, the attorney representing the girls' parents, Kimberly Schlau and Brian Uhl.
Two other girls, passengers in the car, were also injured.
For two years after the accident, Mitchell was placed on paid leave, continuing to earn his $68,000 annual salary. Mitchell pleaded guilty last year as part of a deal with prosecutors and served 90 days probation, never seeing any jail time.
On the day of the accident, Mitchell was responding at triple-digit speeds to the scene of an incident at which troopers were already present. He was simultaneously e-mailing colleagues and on the phone with his girlfriend, when his car jumped the median and struck the car in which the girls were riding.
Days after he pleaded guilty in a criminal trial, Mitchell resigned from the force and denied any responsibility for the girls' death in a civil suit brought by the family against the state.
"This man has no shame," Keefe told ABCNews.com. "He had no shame when he changed his story and insisted he was not responsible for that crash, and he continues to have no shame now. That's gall."
Keefe said that because Mitchell was a state employee on the job at the time of the crash, the family's civil case is tied up in a special court of claims, and a jury will never hear the case.
The same conditions, being a state employee and on the clock, also qualify Mitchell for disability insurance.
State Trooper Injured His Legs
Mitchell injured his legs in the crash but his lawyer would not specify what treatment he needs or has already undergone.
"Realistically, several lawyers have reviewed this case and believe he absolutely has a valid claim," Mitchell's attorney, Kerri O'Sullivan, said.
Asked about the family and public perception of Mitchell profiting from the crash, O'Sullivan said, "We were not retained to defend Mitchell or his actions. Our responsibility is just to administer the claim."
Under state law, a hearing officer will review Mitchell's claims and determine how much he is entitled. Each body part is assigned a number of weeks' pay.
Depending on the severity of his injury, Mitchell may receive a percentage of his weekly salary. But if the officer determines Mitchell is permanently disabled, he is entitled to the difference in the amount of money he currently earns and his salary at the time of his injury.
"He could be earning hundreds of thousands of dollars," family attorney Keefe said. "And that family lost their two girls. No one can understand that. Where is their compensation?"