A Medina woman was sentenced to five months in custody for driving drunk and fatally striking a Plymouth resident on a walk with her elderly mother more than two years ago.
Before Luann M. Johnson, 58, was sentenced, the widower of 56-year-old Mary C. Singleton gave a tearful and brief victim-impact statement. Joe Singleton said he and his late wife were married for 31 years and that she was the kindest, most caring person who was a daughter, sister, mother, and "for two months she was a very happy grandmother."
Singleton said he and his wife planned to retire and travel. "All that's gone," he said, calling the loss "senseless."
Johnson's sentence was not a surprise; she entered a guilty plea last May in Singleton's June 2017 death. As part of the plea, which came on the eve of trial, the sentence had been agreed upon by Singleton's family, Assistant County Attorney Darren Borg said in court.
Assuming good behavior, Johnson will serve the first 150 days in the Hennepin County workhouse.
Then she will serve the remaining 90 on electronic home monitoring. She will be allowed out to work. She will also be on probation for four years during which she is not allowed to drink any alcohol or drive.
Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam added a condition of his own, requiring Johnson to give 20 cautionary speeches about drunken driving.
Johnson also gave a tearful statement to the court before her sentence, turning to look at Singleton's family in the front row several times. "I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am for the accident that caused the death of Mary," she said.
Johnson recalled the day she entered her plea, saying she had been filled with gratitude that she was finally able to express to Singleton's family how sorry she was. When Joe Singleton and Mary's sister hugged her that day, Johnson said she experienced "a spiritual healing."
Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of criminal vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit of 0.08.
Two other counts of criminal vehicular homicide were dismissed. According to the criminal complaint against her: Johnson was seen "driving aggressively" on I-394/Hwy. 12 after leaving a fundraiser at an Eden Prairie golf club.
She turned north on Hwy. 101 and "suddenly swerved" across the southbound lanes. Her vehicle jumped the curb and struck Singleton, who was walking on the sidewalk with her mother a block from her home about 5:45 p.m. in the 700 block of County Road 101. Charges said Johnson lied to police at the scene, saying that a tire had malfunctioned. The State Patrol found nothing wrong with her tires.
Quam said the case is one of the most tragic that anyone would have to face, causing a death by turning a car into a "3,000-pound drunken bullet."
He noted that probably hundreds of people made the same mistake last weekend. By requiring Johnson to tell her story, Quam told her he's hoping she can prevent just one accident like hers. "It's not easy to go around telling people what you did, you killed somebody," he said.
Johnson said she would be "honored" to give those speeches.
If she violates the conditions of her probation, she could go to prison for four years.
Right before Johnson was sentenced, Quam gave probation to a former professional wrestler, John Nord, who has been arrested seven times for driving under the influence of drugs — mostly painkillers.
Nord, 59, wrestled under the name the "Nord the Barbarian" in the heyday of Twin Cities wrestling.
In recent years, he has become a frequent abuser of painkillers to cope with the damage to his body and brain. He now uses a wheelchair and has ALS.
The prosecutor on his case argued that Quam should send Nord to prison for more than four years because he represents a significant public safety threat as he has continued to drive. Nord and his defense attorney, however, said he is in treatment and will be in assisted-living facilities for the rest of his life.
Quam said the sentencing decision was difficult. "Life has handed you a lot of special things," he told Nord. "On the other hand, it's taken away a lot of what makes you you."
The judge put Nord on five years of probation under the condition he stay in restrictive housing and do "no driving whatsoever."
He told Nord to come back to his courtroom in three months to give an update on how he's faring. Quam said he wants to see him doing well.