READ THE FEEDBACK ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE!
Former deputy pleads guilty in fatal hit-and-run //
Rochester man says he was drunk; may face 4 years
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Admitting he was driving drunk, a former Olmsted County sheriff'
s deputy pleaded guilty Monday to criminal vehicular homicide and
another charge related to the hit-and-run death of a man this summer
near a street party in Byron, Minn.
Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said Monday that he
will recommend a minimum four-year sentence for Eric B. Thompson,
25, of Rochester, who was off duty at the time of the hit-and-run.
Four years is the presumptive sentence under Minnesota law, and Thompson
would be expected to serve at least 32 months of it.
``This is a serious crime, and we feel it warrants a prison term,
'' said Backstrom, whose office prosecuted Thompson to avoid a conflict
among Olmsted County law enforcement agencies. ``This case is particularly
egregious because it was a law enforcement officer who chose not only
to drink and drive, but also to leave the scene after he struck and
killed a pedestrian.''
Thompson is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 25 in Olmsted County
District Court. He is free on bond.
He was driving a pickup truck just before midnight July 18
at speeds of 40 to 55 miles per hour in a 30-mph zone, according to
accident reconstruction experts. Earlier, authorities said it appeared
Thompson was traveling at about 60 mph.
He struck and killed Ronald Carlson, 34, of Byron, and injured
Carlson's wife, Terri, 35, and the driver of a car he struck while
fleeing. The Carlsons were walking home from the street party when
they were hit from behind.
In addition to pleading guilty to the homicide charge, Thompson
pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular operation resulting in bodily
harm related to drunken driving.
Authorities said Thompson was seen before the crash at the
Byron community party, which was attended by 600 to 800 people. Beer
was sold at the party, and people were allowed to bring liquor to
mix with soft drinks.
Thompson was driving east on a frontage road, then pulled into
a westbound lane to pass vehicles waiting at a stop sign. After hitting
the couple, prosecutors said, Thompson's pickup rear-ended a car,
pulled around other cars waiting at a stop sign and went past the
sign without stopping.
A driver tried to follow the pickup but ``lost sight of the
truck after chasing it for about 2 miles'' when Thompson turned out
his lights and continued driving, prosecutors said.
Thompson comes from a family of police officers. His brother
Steve, a Rochester officer on duty the night of the crash, played
a role in the arrest.
When a description of the vehicle - a blue extended-cab Chevy
- was relayed to police, Steve Thompson thought it sounded like his
brother's. He drove to his brother's house in the early morning of
July 19, found him asleep on a couch and opened the door for other
officers to enter.
``Upon being awakened, Thompson was distraught, saying, `I'
m sorry,' '' the criminal complaint said.
Assistant Dakota County Attorney Mary Theisen, who prosecuted
the case, said authorities found Thompson sleeping ``on the sofa with
a gun in one hand and a police radio in the other hand.''
He was arrested at about 3 a.m. July 19 and had a blood-alcohol
content of 0.15 percent when tested at 3:32 a.m., three hours and
40 minutes after the crash. The legal limit in Minnesota is 0.10 percent.
Thompson resigned in September from the Sheriff's Department.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. I know I have a lot of opinions on the matter, but some of them are conflicting.
The penalties in MN for Criminal Vehicular Operation are far too small. He should not even be out of prison yet as far as I'm concerned. That said, he did the time the State required him to do and now he is trying to move on with his life, as he should.
How is a guy supposed to begin to make amends for his past mistakes if he is not allowed to attempt to resume a normal (as normal as possible anyway) life? I don't know.
Another job on the taxpayer's dime? That's another issue I'm conflicted over. On one hand, I think he burned that bridge the night of the crash and subsequent flight from the scene. On the other hand, he seems to be one of the most capable and qualified candidates. Doesn't a city deserve the best candidates? I don't know.
Personally, I can't believe that he is staying in the area. If it were me in his shoes, I'd probably look for my fresh start elsewhere.