Charges filed against truck driver in trooper's death

(MCT) — Charges have been filed against a Wisconsin truck driver in the death of Illinois State Police Trooper James Sauter in a fiery crash on the Tri-State Tollway, the Cook County state's attorney announced this morning.

Dozens of his fellow troopers are expected at the Skokie courthouse this morning, where trucker Andrew Bokelman, 25, is scheduled to appear on felony violations of federal regulations for truck drivers, the state police said.

Bokelman, of Lomira, Wis., fell asleep at the wheel of his semi tractor-trailer the night of March 28 on Interstate 294 near Willow Road, according to the state police. Bokelman's rig veered onto the left shoulder and struck Sauter's Crown Victoria squad car as it sat parked.

Both vehicles burst into flame, and Sauter, 28, of Vernon Hills, was killed. Bokelman suffered minor burns.

Bokelman is accused of violating three rules and regulations related to driving a commercial motor vehicle: Driving while fatigued, driving more hours in a 14-hour period than allowed, and falsifying his hours log. The charges carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Bokelman surrendered to state police this morning at the District 15 facility in Park Ridge. He is to appear in court in Skokie at 9 a.m., state police spokeswoman Monique Bond said.

Sauter, who grew up in south suburban Chicago Ridge, had served on road patrol before a stint as a pilot in the ISP aviation operations division. He had recently transferred back to road patrol, where he felt he was able to help people.

He earned his first commendation as a trooper in 2008, while he was just a cadet, when he spotted a motorcycle crash on Interstate 80 while driving to classes at the academy. Sauter raced across several lanes of traffic with medical supplies to aid the injured motorcyclist.

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