A grand jury indictment has been dismissed against a State Patrol officer who was charged with manslaughter for hitting and killing an elderly couple while responding to a motorcycle accident on July 4, 2014.
Scott Reps, a 28-year State Patrol veteran, was speeding at more than 100 miles per hour toward a motorcycle-deer collision that had injured a driver in Cannon Falls, Minn.
When Norman Scott, 78, failed to yield as he pulled out of a McDonald’s parking lot, his vehicle was broadsided by Reps’ squad car. He and his wife, Geneva, 79, were killed instantly, and Reps was seriously injured.
Law enforcement officers are rarely charged with a crime when they are involved in a fatal accident. But in December, a grand jury indicted Reps on charges of second-degree manslaughter and failure to drive with due care.
Reps’ defense attorney, Fred Bruno, filed a motion in July accusing the Winona County attorney’s office of prosecutorial misconduct and using a confidential and coerced statement from Reps to garner the unlikely indictment.
Following a contested omnibus hearing on July 13 at the Goodhue County Justice Center, District Judge David L. Knutson dismissed the indictment in his written decision Thursday based on two independent grounds: Reps’ “rights were violated when he was coerced into giving a statement on threat of termination, which was later used against him for charging purposes,” and other pertinent information was not introduced to the grand jury.
Reps, 49, of Red Wing, Minn., has remained on medical leave since the accident, in which he suffered broken arms and a broken ankle. He will resume his duties if medically able, Bruno said.
In the State Patrol’s 19-page accident reconstruction report, Reps was found to be traveling 80 mph. His car skidded 120 feet before crashing. Speed was a clear factor in the crash, the report said, but it was Norman Scott’s responsibility to have a clear visual before entering the roadway and yield to Reps’ squad car, which had turned on its lights and siren.
The fact that Scott had failed to yield as required by law was not presented to the jury, Knutson said.
“[This] evidence was material to the proceedings and there is reasonable probability that the grand jury would have refused to indict [Reps] if the evidence was presented,” Knutson wrote in his decision.
Reps thought he was to be the first person on the scene of the motorcycle accident — another piece of information withheld from the jury, Bruno alleged.
“The grand jury wasn’t told that, in the mind of an expert, an equally contributing factor to what happened here was the conduct of the decedent driver,” Bruno said. “So they withheld exculpatory evidence from the jurors. There was a line and they crossed it, and the judge recognized that.”
“In my opinion, the prosecutor was hellbent on prosecuting the state trooper for no good reason. … Everybody is in a hurry now to bag a trophy cop as a defendant.”
Assistant Winona County Attorney Stephanie Nuttall could not be reached for comment Friday evening.
Prosecutors have the ability to reconvene a grand jury in this case before the statute of limitations is lifted.
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.