A 24-year-old woman has been convicted of running over another woman late at night in a downtown Minneapolis parking lot, dragging and seriously injuring her victim with the speeding car until crashing into another vehicle.
Vanessa I. Uzong, of Minneapolis, was found guilty Friday by jurors in Hennepin County District Court of felony criminal vehicular operation for running down Miera L. Horton, 27, also of Minneapolis, after a fight about 1 a.m. on Oct. 18 in the Hennepin Avenue lot.
County Attorney Mike Freeman said Monday that along with a state guideline sentence of probation, his office also will urge that Uzong spend the same amount of time in the county workhouse that Horton spent in the hospital, that being six months.
Uzong’s defense had argued during the trial that the incident was nothing more than an accident. Jurors deliberated about three hours before finding Uzong guilty on the one charge, but acquitting her of first-degree assault, meaning they concluded she did not intend to hit Horton. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 12 before Judge Hilary Caligiuri.
Uzong’s attorney, Joseph Tamburino, characterized the prosecution’s pursuit of workhouse time as “an overreach.”
“We’re going to ask for a lot less,” Tamburino said Monday. He noted that the prosecution failed to show that Uzong meant to run over Horton and that the victim had attacked his client just moments earlier.
“It was just a horrific accident” involving a driver who was speeding and operating the car in a grossly negligent manner, he added.
Horton suffered a lacerated liver and a punctured lung, along with broken ribs, a shattered pelvis and fractured limbs.
The parking lot incident grew out of a dispute between two groups of people and erupted minutes after one woman shot and killed another woman in the nearby Augie’s strip club.
The people in the parking lot altercation had just been hustled out of Augie’s after the shooting. Police have said the two crimes are not otherwise connected.
One witness told police that he intervened between the two women and their friends earlier, according to the criminal complaint against Uzong. Later in the parking lot, the witness continued, Uzong “swerved and intentionally struck” Horton. It’s that contention that jurors dismissed.
Horton was dragged until Uzong’s car struck another vehicle, the complaint continued.
The complaint did not elaborate on the nature of the difficulties between Horton and Uzong.
Tamburino said he was unaware of why the two had clashed, but said they had never encountered one another before that night.