Felony charges will not be pursued against a driver who police say was looking at her cellphone when she struck a road construction worker in Anoka County last year, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The crash in East Bethel on July 31 left Laura Elena Soto Silva, 34, of Fergus Falls, with severe injuries. Police said the 19-year-old driver was checking Snapchat on her phone.
In announcing his decision, County Attorney Tony Palumbo said that while “we believe there should be criminal responsibility ... we don’t believe that we can prove the elements of a felony-level crime in this case.”
The case was sent back to law enforcement with the recommendation that the city prosecutor review it for possible misdemeanor or gross-misdemeanor charges.
Palumbo said his prosecutors thoroughly reviewed the facts and failed to find Jordan Paulus’ actions behind the wheel to be grossly negligent, which was legally required for her to be charged with criminal vehicular operation, a felony.
“That requires two elements: egregious driving conduct AND negligence,” the announcement from the county attorney’s office read. “Both must be present.”
Palumbo added that “while the victim’s injuries were horrible ... we do not believe we can prove felony-level charges beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Silva was holding a sign near the intersection of 7th Street and 237th Avenue NE. in East Bethel about 1:10 p.m., the time of the incident. Traffic had come to a stop.
Paulus, of East Bethel, allegedly told authorities she was looking at her phone as she drove. At the last second, she saw the stopped traffic and swerved to the right to avoid hitting the car in front of her. She steered onto the shoulder and struck Silva.
Silva had just given birth to her sixth child the previous month. She was in a coma for two months and still copes with the effects of her injuries.