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Lipe took off as Hervey hung on, swerving into traffic and two parked cars, knocking Hervey off and leaving him motionless on the pavement. Lipe then rolled the SUV on Franklin Avenue and fled, only to be arrested later.
Meanwhile, doctors told Hervey’s family that he had very slim chances of recovery.
The most Hervey improved in five years was to allow for removal of his tracheotomy tube, but he never regained consciousness, said Chris, who visited his brother twice a week until he died.
Chris Hervey said he was contacted by the Hennepin County attorney’s office not long afterward, saying it wanted to try to change the laws that barred them from punishing Lipe further. They had his support.
“I don’t think it really boils down to just my brother or to Scott Lipe. I think they’re looking at changing things as a whole, and you have to start from something,” he said. “You have to look at the aftermath; you can’t just let people get away with things like this.”
A case with parallels
It’s not the first opportunity the Hennepin County attorney’s office has had to challenge the state statute.
Four gang members were sentenced to 14 to 20 years in prison for first-degree assault following the 2009 beating of Norman Burton on a north Minneapolis sidewalk.
Burton, who like Hervey spent his final years in a nursing home with severe brain damage, died last November of pneumonia. He was 60.
At the time, Freeman said he wasn’t sure whether he could reopen the case against the four to charge them with murder.
“Now that the crime got worse because somebody died, can you come back again?” he said last year.
Freeman said last week that despite the parallels between the Burton and Lipe cases, prosecutors seized the opportunity when Hervey died because Lipe was scheduled to soon see freedom.
“We didn’t wait for a case to challenge this,” Freeman said. “We looked at Lipe and said, ‘This is wrong; let’s do something about it.’ ”
Freeman said the results of Lipe’s case could influence whether his office pursues the Burton case.
Cascarano counters that his client, who has accepted responsibility and is serving his time, is being used as a pawn in hopes of changing state law. He’s prepared for an appeal, but hopes it doesn’t have to come to it.
“I’m hoping … they should stop what I would call a misguided prosecution and pursue a legislative remedy, rather than in the courts,” Cascarano said.
Abby Simons • 612-673-4921