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Family To Warn Students About Drunken Driving Under Unusual Sentence

May 20, 1988

TAVARES, Fla. (AP) _ Prosecutors agreed to drop misdemeanor charges against the parents of a man convicted in a fatal drunken-driving accident if they joined their son when he speaks to students as part of his sentence.

Elaine Cermak, a city councilwoman, and her husband Michael agreed to participate in the speaking tour as part of the settlement of charges that they served alcohol to minors at their daughter’s wedding reception.

Michael Cermak Jr., 20, is serving a three-year sentence after pleading guilty Feb. 3 to two counts of DUI-manslaughter. The crash last June 13 killed Sherri Blundell, 18, and Heather Steverson, 17, as Cermak was driving them home from the reception.

Cermak’s blood-alcohol level was 0.15 percent after the accident. A person is considered legally intoxicated in Florida with a level of 0.10 percent.

His parents were charged last month with two counts each of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and giving alcoholic beverages to persons under 21.

Prosecutors said Wednesday they would drop the misdemeanor charges against the parents if they joined their son in talking to students in all Lake County middle and high schools about the tragedy and their role in it. The speaking tour was part of the younger Cermak’s sentence.

″It was a very easy way out of a very difficult situation,″ said Elaine Cermak, 40, who was set to go to trial with her husband May 23.

″We realized that a trial wouldn’t have done anyone any good,″ said Mrs. Cermak, who was re-elected to the council last month before charges against her and her husband were filed.

″The agreement was something that made the point for everyone,″ said State Attorney S. Ray Gill. ″I told my assistants from the start that we were not out for blood in this situation.″

The pre-trial agreement signed Wednesday did not include any plea or any admittance of guilt. Gill said he did not want the criminal case to interfere with any civil litigation.

Arthur Blundell is charging in a civil suit that the Cermaks caused his daughter’s death by letting their son get drunk at the reception.

The younger Cermak also pleaded guilty to a charge of altering his driver’s license to indicate that he was 21, Florida’s drinking age.

He has since been enrolled in a 90-day prison program for youthful offenders. If he completes it, he could be free about July 25. He and his probation officer will then set up his lecture schedule.

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