An attorney for the family of Scott Spoo, who was hit and killed last year in St. Paul, said Thursday that prosecutors ignored important evidence and gave motorist Peter Berge, a high-profile attorney, preferential treatment when deciding not to file felony charges.
Berge was found to have an aggressive form of brain cancer when he was hospitalized shortly after the crash on Feb. 22. He had told police that "his condition was the cause of his impaired behavior," according to court documents.
Berge's attorney, Charles Hawkins, hit back against the allegations from attorney Jay Urban, saying Urban "is ill-informed and uninformed."
Spoo, 35, was hit while he was jogging on Mississippi River Boulevard at Dayton Avenue.
The Hennepin County attorney's office on Wednesday said no felony charges would be filed against Berge. County Attorney Mike Freeman said Berge had no drugs or alcohol in his system and wasn't using his cellphone at the time of the crash.
Jay Urban, an attorney for Spoo, said in a statement Thursday, "The lack of criminal charges against … Berge does not clear him for responsibility in the death of avid sportsman Scott Spoo. In fact, evidence that prosecutors ignored shows that Berge's actions, and not a health condition, directly caused Spoo's death."
Urban continued, "Witnesses say Berge was on his mobile phone at the time of the crash, exiting the vehicle with the phone in his hand. Yet Berge blocked investigators from unlocking his iPhone."
He cited a concert in Las Vegas, a play at the Guthrie and a weeklong bicycle tour in California that Berge took in the days and weeks before the crash as evidence that he was "very active and able-bodied."
Urban said Berge and his attorney provided prosecutors with "no medical proof from doctors of his alleged impairment at the time of the crash."
The attorney's statement said "local authorities seemed to favor Berge, a lawyer well-known in the Twin Cities, in the investigation and decision whether to prosecute him."
Hawkins, however, said the allegations in Urban's statement are downright false.
A Ramsey County district judge issued a search warrant for Berge's iPhone, Hawkins said, and prosecutors had "medical records demonstrating the impairment at the time of the crash," he said.
A typographical error in a police report made it seem as if Berge was on his phone at the time of the crash. The accident happened at 4:39 p.m., but an initial police report said it was 4:22 p.m. The Hennepin County attorney's office and St. Paul police both confirmed that was an error.
Freeman said in his ruling that Berge hadn't been on his phone since 4:26 p.m.
As for allegations that Berge was "active and able-bodied," Hawkins said, "That's fine and dandy. He's got five tumors in his brain that affected him medically."
On Urban's statement that prosecutors "favored" Berge, Hawkins said that "shows he doesn't understand what happens when a lawyer is being investigated. It's just the opposite. They make sure there's no appearance that they're playing favorites."
Said Hawkins, "Mr. Urban can't come to grips with the fact that what this is is an accident. He's well aware, or he should be well aware, of the distinguishing factors between civil and criminal cases."