Charges have been dropped against two drivers among the 12 accused of topping 100 miles per hour in a pack of exotic cars on a wild weekend ride in the west metro this spring, making them the first to avoid conviction.
The prosecution is saying that the inability to prove who was actually behind the wheel is what forced court hearings to be canceled this week for Gholam Hossein Vatanioskooi, 56, of Victoria, and Alfredo Santiago, 37, of Andover.
“The State cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant was the driver of his vehicle,” Rolf Sponheim, associate city attorney for Minnetonka, explained in matching court filings tossing out both misdemeanor reckless driving cases.
One cruiser already pleaded guilty. Nine other cases are still in the works stemming from the April 23 cruise that stretched west on I-394 from Louisiana Avenue and onto the interstate’s Hwy. 12 extension before the State Patrol caught up to 12 of the two dozen or more luxury sports cars.
The attorney for Vatanioskooi and Santiago said Wednesday his clients being ticketed was nothing more than law enforcement targeting “high-end vehicles, rich dudes who think they are above the law, and we’re going to screw them.”
Avery Appelman, whose practice specializes in speeding allegations among other offenses, said, “It wasn’t just that they can’t prove they were the drivers. They could not prove anything.”
The patrol said the vehicles were changing lanes and passing other motorists at high speeds. Some were stopped along westbound I-394, while others — including Vatanioskooi and Santiago — kept going and were detained at a gas station farther west in Maple Plain. The rest escaped being cited.
Appelman said he has watched the multiple squad car dashcam videos — totaling at least 90 minutes — and “our clients are not seen anywhere.”
Vatanioskooi and Santiago were the last of the many drivers who started on the cruise from Morrie’s Luxury Auto sales and later were among the five stopped at the Maple Plain gas station, Appelman said. It was then that a state trooper showed up and “gave the same ticket to everybody,” the attorney said.
Sponheim declined to say anything further about the dismissals, explaining, “I have the other related cases still pending.”
When the patrol first revealed the fast and furious frenzy to the news media, Santiago and several others among the accused kicked around in a Facebook discussion how to deal with the situation.
Santiago took a good-natured jab at one of his cruising buddies, saying, “I already told them Ethan Hoover wasn’t going that fast because I passed him like he was standing still.”
Last month, Austin J. Kemmer, of Fargo, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days in the county workhouse, but that was stayed in favor of two days’ community service. Kemmer also was ordered to pay a $500 fine and $78 in fees. The sentence included being on a year of unsupervised probation.
Many of the drivers belonged to MN Exotics and Supercars, an invitation-only club in the Twin Cities that touts itself as “one of the most exclusive” for high-end cars in Minnesota. Among the vehicle models on this hyper-speed cruise were Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati and Audi.