Willmar man sentenced for running over blind pedestrian last November
WILLMAR, Minn. -- A 56-year-old man here was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail and fined $1,000 for running over a blind man who was trying to cross an intersection last November.
Gary Lee Mattson also was ordered to take a vision test and to begin serving 30 of the 90 days in jail on Monday. The remaining 60 days was stayed for one year.
"It is unbelievable that someone would leave the scene of an accident such as this," said Kandiyohi District Judge Michael J. Thompson before handing down the sentence. "We all make mistakes, but we have to be accountable for those mistakes."
Mattson's attorney, Daniel Eller, argued that Mattson was concerned about the victim, Thomas Sykora, 58, of Willmar, in the days after the crash, but did not contact Sykora to apologize because he was advised not to by his insurance company.
Police reports in the court file indicate Mattson spoke briefly to a sheriff's deputy who had stopped for the accident and then left the scene. He was not located by law enforcement until several hours after the crash.
"He is sorry for what occurred. He is remorseful for what happened," Eller said.
Mattson did not apologize to Sykora during the hearing, only noting that he had been told not to contact Sykora by the insurance company.
The incident left Sykora with 22 broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade and a broken ankle that required surgery.
Sykora's daughter, Kelley Sykora, read her father's victim impact statement to the court. In the statement, he recounted his pain and suffering from the time of the crash, through the hospitalization and through the recovery process.
"The impact of this offense has been huge to me, my life and my family," the impact statement read. "It has taken away a lot of my independence and mobility."
Sykora stated that he suffered emotional harm and discovered "terrifying panic" when he first attempted to go for a walk with his guide dog Nectar this spring and heard a car coming from behind him. He is seeking counseling, he said.
Sykora has filed a civil lawsuit against Mattson. According to the suit, Sykora is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000 and claims he suffered severe and life-threatening injuries due to Mattson's negligence. During the sentencing hearing, Sykora said he has hospital bills of more than $185,000.
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