Woman gets 27 years for fa­tally stab­bing Uber driver

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY DAVID STRUETT, CST WIRE RE­PORTER dstruett@suntimes.com | @dstru312

A 19-year-old Chicago woman was sen­tenced to 27 years in prison this week for hack­ing an Uber driver to death with a stolen knife and ma­chete in an un­pro­voked at­tack in north sub­ur­ban Lin­col­nwood.

El­iza Wasni, who was 16 when she killed Grant Nel­son, pleaded guilty to mur­der on Mon­day and was sen­tenced by

Cook County Judge Ti­mothy Cham­bers at the Skokie Court­house, court records show.

Wasni, a for­mer Taft High School stu­dent, had been charged as an adult for the 2017 crime.

When she first ap­peared in court fol­low­ing her ar­rest three years ago, Judge Michael J. Hood called Wasni’s ac­tions a “ran­dom act of vi­o­lence.”

Be­fore dawn on May 30, 2017, Wasni walked out of a 24-hour Wal­mart in Skokie with the weapons she shoplifted, called an Uber and was picked up by 34-year-old Nel­son in his Hyundai Sonata, prose­cu­tors said.

Within two min­utes, the teen be­gan at­tack­ing Nel­son as the car ap­proached the in­ter­sec­tion of Touhy and Lin­coln av­enues, stab­bing him re­peat­edly on the side of his arm, torso, head and chest, prose­cu­tors said.

Nel­son, of Wil­mette, pulled up to a condo build­ing in the 7200 block of Touhy Av­enue, ran to the lobby and slammed on the door scream­ing for help. Re­spond­ing of­fi­cers fol­lowed a trail of blood and found him on the grass on the side of the build­ing.

Wasni took Nel­son’s car and drove it back to­ward Lin­coln and Touhy av­enues be­fore she hit a me­dian and fled the ve­hi­cle. Of­fi­cers found Nel­son’s phone in the car’s front seat and saw that Wasni was listed as his Uber pas­sen­ger, prose­cu­tors said.

Of­fi­cers later spot­ted Wasni hid­ing be­hind a nearby of­fice build­ing in a blood-spat­tered Cubs shirt hold­ing the bloody knife and ma­chete.

Nel­son, who a friend de­scribed as “the type to give you the shirt off his back,” was able to tell po­lice his pas­sen­ger had stabbed him be­fore he died that morn­ing at St. Fran­cis Hospi­tal in Evanston.

They’re out of Illi­nois’ “penalty box” for now, but the bad sports bet­ting blood re­mains.

Thanks to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s lat­est coro­n­avirus dis­as­ter procla­ma­tion, on­line sports­book gi­ant DraftKings ma­neu­vered its way around a hur­dle in state gam­bling law to en­ter the rookie Illi­nois sports bet­ting mar­ket last week­end — and the CEO of the com­pany didn’t hold back in his as­sess­ment of the casino in­ter­ests that fought to keep them locked out.

“Feels so good to be tak­ing mo­bile reg­is­tra­tions in Illi­nois,” DraftKings co-founder Ja­son Robins said in a since-deleted Mon­day tweet. “Es­pe­cially af­ter the cor­rupt id­iots at Rush Street Gam­ing tried to block us in the state. Over the long run, good pol­icy al­ways wins.”

A spokesman for Rush Street — bil­lion­aire Rivers Casino Chair­man Neil Bluhm’s gam­ing com­pany — fired back by not­ing “Rush Street has never been asked to leave a state, pays taxes on ev­ery wa­ger, and has not been named in mul­ti­ple con­sumer class ac­tion suits,” re­fer­ring to DraftKings’ past le­gal is­sues in some mar­kets.

The war of wa­ger­ing words shows there’s been no love lost be­tween the on­line-only op­er­a­tors and their brick-and-mor­tar casino neme­ses since Illi­nois’ gam­bling power play­ers in­tro­duced le­gal sports bet­ting to the state with the mas­sive gam­bling ex­pan­sion signed into law by Pritzker last sum­mer.

Key to those Spring­field ne­go­ti­a­tions was in­clu­sion of the so-called “penalty box” pe­riod for on­line gi­ants such as DraftKings and FanDuel, mean­ing they’re barred from ap­ply­ing for $20 mil­lion sports wa­ger­ing li­censes un­til 18 months af­ter the casi­nos nab their li­censes at a frac­tion of the cost.

Rush Street lob­by­ists were among the gam­bling in­ter­ests who in­sisted on that pro­vi­sion to give the casi­nos a head start in the Illi­nois sports bet­ting mar­ket — and to pun­ish the on­line com­pa­nies that op­er­ated for years in the le­gal gray area of daily fan­tasy sports. For­mer Illi­nois At­tor­ney Gen­eral Lisa Madi­gan con­cluded in 2015 that the on­line wa­ger­ing firms con­sti­tuted an il­le­gal gam­bling oper­a­tion.

As a re­sult, the Illi­nois law was writ­ten to al­low casi­nos to of­fer mo­bile bet­ting ap­pli­ca­tions — by far the in­dus­try’s most prof­itable plat­form — but it re­quires gam­blers to reg­is­ter for their ac­counts in-per­son at the casi­nos.

So DraftKings was on the side­lines when Rivers launched the state’s first re­tail sports­book at the Des Plaines casino March 9.

But with the casi­nos shut down due to COVID-19, Pritzker is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der sus­pend­ing the in-per­son sports bet­ting reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment, which al­lowed Rivers to launch its mo­bile plat­form June 18.

Mean­while, DraftKings had ne­go­ti­ated its path out of the penalty box by strik­ing a co­brand­ing agree­ment with the Casino Queen in down­state East St. Louis.

And just as they were poised to take ad­van­tage of the ex­ec­u­tive or­der, Illi­nois casi­nos re­opened with Phase 4, and the Demo­cratic gover­nor let the in-per­son sus­pen­sion ex­pire in his up­dated July 24 dis­as­ter procla­ma­tion — mean­ing gam­blers would have to drive to the Casino Queen to open a DraftKings ac­count.

But as the virus has re­bounded, Pritzker sus­pended the reg­is­tra­tion rule again in his lat­est procla­ma­tion, which went into ef­fect Aug. 21.

That means bet­tors statewide can reg­is­ter for DraftKings on their phone un­til at least Sept. 19, when Pritzker’s procla­ma­tion ex­pires.

In his Mon­day Twit­ter barb, Robins, the DraftKings CEO, ap­plauded Pritzker “for do­ing what’s right for the cit­i­zens of Illi­nois.”

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