A semitrailer truck driver involved in a distracted driving crash that killed a beloved college professor last year in Lake Elmo will spend a year in jail and perform 60 hours of community service.
Samuel Hicks, 29, of Independence, Wis., will also serve 10 years on supervised probation upon his release from jail and must work with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to produce videos and participate in educational outreach programs to highlight the dangers of distracted driving, according to the sentence handed down by Judge Gregory Galler on Friday in Washington County District Court.
Hicks was also ordered to pay a $3,000 fine. A motion to allow him to return home for a week to say goodbye to family members before going to jail was denied.
Hicks pleaded guilty in April to criminal vehicular homicide. He admitted that he had been texting with his girlfriend and using an app to look up information about a house when he slammed into the back of Robert Bursik’s Scion while going 63 mph at the intersection of Hwy. 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue on Feb. 27, 2018.
Bursik, 54, of Amery, Wis., died at the scene. He was the founder and owner of Dragonfly Gardens, a nursery and greenhouse with locations in Amery and Turtle Lake. For the past 20 years, Bursik had been an instructor in the Biology Department at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, where he also was an adviser for the college’s Student Environmental Association.
Bursik is survived by his wife, Jessica, and three children.
Days after the crash, the State Patrol called it a clear case of distracted driving.
Hicks’ sentencing comes before a state law prohibiting drivers from using hand-held phones goes into effect Aug. 1. Violators who are caught face a $50 fine for a first offense and $275 for a second. Motorists can use voice commands or a single-touch activation cellphone or other device.