Sentencing Guidelines: Is it Time for Change in Minnesota?

posted May 9, 2019, 7:49 AM by Crime Watch   [ updated May 9, 2019, 7:52 AM ]

By Minnesota Crime Watch & Information, May 5, 2019

A Brooklyn Park man involved in the Wednesday evening Minneapolis crash that killed another motorist should have been incarcerated, not in north Minneapolis driving a vehicle.

The suspect in the crash has nearly forty prior driving related convictions but had a “perfectly clean record” as far as the court was concerned when he was sentenced to just probation last month on a charge of felony Fleeing a Police Officer in a Motor Vehicle.

At least that’s the reason given by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office as to why he received probation and not a prison sentence last month.

But not even one month following that conviction and sentence of probation, the suspect is in jail facing charges for killing an innocent motorist after he attempted again to flee from police on Wednesday.

THE SCENE

According to a press release by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) the crash happened following police response to a report of suspected drug activity between two vehicles on the 3300 block of Aldrich Avenue North. After officers initially made contact with the drivers of both vehicles, one of the drivers “accelerated rapidly toward” one of the officers nearly striking him as the driver fled from the scene.

The officers advised dispatch that they were attempting to catch up to the vehicle which had left the scene at a high rate of speed. Upon driving in the direction that the vehicle had fled from the scene, officers came upon a crash at 36th and Aldrich Avenue North. One officer apprehended the suspected driver who had fled, and the other officer rendered aid to the victim in the other vehicle involved in the crash. The victim was taken to North Memorial hospital in Robbinsdale where he died from his injuries.

The apprehended suspect, Trevon Xavier Miguel McMorris, 27, has been identified in a statement by MPD, and is currently being held in Hennepin County Jail and is charged with felony Flee Peace Officer – Motor Vehicle – Resulting in Death. The driver of the other vehicle who was killed in the crash has been identified as 50-year-old Jose Angel Madrid Salcido, who had been living in Minneapolis for the past four years.

PRIOR HISTORY

McMorris, who has nearly forty prior driving related convictions, including numerous convictions for driving after revocation or suspension, no proof of driver’s license, and no proof of insurance, was just convicted on April 5, 2019, on felony Fleeing a Police Officer in a Motor Vehicle. However, instead of being sentenced for up to three years in prison, which is the maximum felony sentence outlined in the Minnesota statute under which he was convicted (§609.487, Subd. 3), his conviction was downgraded to a gross misdemeanor and he was placed on probation and sentenced by Hennepin County judicial officer Judge Jay Quam to the three days he had previously already spent in jail prior to the conviction.

Despite McMorris’ lengthy history of driving offenses and apparent flagrant disregard for traffic laws and the requirement for a valid driver’s license, he was given no prison time and was released on the promise that he would abide by the conditions of probation (Case #27-CR-19-150).

THE PROBLEM

We reached out to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office (HCAO) for an explanation as to why with so many prior driving convictions and flagrant, repeated violations McMorris was given probation on the felony Fleeing case and not sent to prison – or even county jail for some period. HCAO spokesperson Chuck Laszewski said that the courts use what’s called a “criminal record summary” and that McMorris’ criminal record summary showed “zero” prior offenses. And that under Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines McMorris was entitled to the downgraded conviction and probation sentence based on his “perfectly clean record.”

McMorris’ numerous prior driving offenses only reached the level of misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors and were prosecuted at the city attorney level. Laszewski explained that per the sentencing guidelines set by the state legislature, cases prosecuted for lower crimes at city level are not visible or are not considered at all by the county level court which prosecutes felony cases.  i.e. McMorris’ felony Fleeing case. The sentencing guidelines do not require that those misdemeanor cases be considered in any other felony level cases, regardless of their quantity or frequency.

When asked about the county attorney’s responsibility to the public and their responsibility to help ensure public safety that would protect innocent lives, Laszewski said that “[the county attorney] can only work within the strictures given to us by the legislature,” and that misdemeanor convictions or past patterns of flagrant disregard that are lower than felony level “don’t come into consideration under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines or under state statutes.”

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Minnesota curiously doesn’t appear to specifically track crashes or deaths caused by unlicensed drivers even though they often make headlines around the state and Twin Cities. However, the Minnesota State Patrol (MSP) did note in 2012 that “unlicensed drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a deadly crash as licensed drivers.” MSP also stated that there were 31 fatalities involving unlicensed drivers in 2011.

In the city of Minneapolis although traffic stops have decreased overall by seventy percent since 2010, the city is under new pressure by social justice activists to discontinue certain traffic stops altogether because of what activists claim to be racial bias and profiling by the MPD.

Should the state legislature take up review of the sentencing guidelines to allow inclusion of lower level crimes in some instances?

Should Minnesota consider strengthening penalties on misdemeanor driving offenses based on cumulative and frequent offenses that often result in danger to the public and damage to property?

Should Minnesota be tracking crashes and fatalities by unlicensed drivers?

Should the city of Minneapolis, and other cities, increase enforcement and prosecution of traffic violations in the interest of public safety?

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(This article has been updated to reflect formal charges against suspect, as originally published in link below)

Photo: Trevon Xavier Miguel McMorris, 2019 Hennepin County Sheriff

View original article: https://alphanewsmn.com/sentencing-guidelines-is-it-time-for-change-in-minnesota/


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