JOLIET – Christopher Yeoman was sentenced Friday to 18 years in prison for the single punch he threw during a 2011 "road rage" confrontation in Romeoville.
"I did not think in a million years one punch would result in this. If I could take back what I did I certainly would," Yeoman told Judge Sarah Jones.
The Lemont man apologized to the family of Frank Egas, and his wife and three children for the financial strain his incarceration has put them under. Yeoman, who was found guilty of second-degree murder and three counts of aggravated battery, will be eligible for parole in nine years.
On June 2, 2011, Yeoman was driving with his family when he gave a "hurry up" tap on the horn to Egas, who was waiting to turn ahead of them on 135th Street in Romeoville. Egas began yelling, sticking out his middle finger and cutting off Yeoman's minivan until the vehicles reached Route 53, where Christopher and Amanda Yeoman got out to confront him.
"All he had to do was stay in the car but he went to him," Assistant Will County State's Attorney Chris Koch said Friday. Witnesses testified Egas got out and pointed to his chin, telling Yeoman to hit him, so Yeoman did so. Yeoman, 41, said during the trial he felt Egas was going to attack him and acted in self-defense.
Egas' head struck the pavement, causing brain injuries that medical experts testified led to his death three months later at the age of 64.
Egas, a Vietnam veteran, was described as a "gentle father ... who lived a second childhood" with his daughter Erin Kuznicki.
"He would always brag to anyone, 'My daughter is a nurse,'' Kuznicki said.
She told the court her father never realized she'd gotten engaged just before his confrontation with Yeoman, and she had to stop working in intensive care units because seeing anyone with head trauma reminds her too much of her father's death.
Kuznicki's medical background also made her realize her father was unlikely to recover from his brain damage and she'd made the emotional decision to put him in hospice care.
"My father and I always bonded over food. I remember when I'd greet him at the corner every payday and we'd go out to eat," Kuznicki said. "Now I have the memory of the difficulty he had using utensils to eat [in the hospital.]"
Kuznicki and Egas' brother, Joe, urged Jones to give Yeoman the maximum sentence of 20 years. Yeoman, who had prior drug and alcohol convictions, served a year of probation in 1992 for battery.
"Each trial has a winning side and a losing side, but in the end, everybody lost in this case," Jones said before pronouncing sentence.