Motorist sentenced to 6 years in woman's fatal hit-and-run on St. Paul's East Side




  • In US
  • 2022-08-10 22:36:00Z
  • By Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

A motorist who fatally struck a pedestrian and left the scene last year on St. Paul's East Side was sentenced Wednesday to more than six years in prison.

Michael John Friend, 65, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in June in connection with the Dec. 20 death of 34-year-old My Ger Vang, who was walking near the intersection of Third Street and White Bear Avenue when she was fatally struck.

Ramsey County District Judge Edward Sheu on Wednesday denied a motion by a county public defender asking for a downward dispositional departure from state guidelines and to give Friend a stayed sentence and probation.

Sheu gave Friend 75 months in prison, which is the low end of sentencing guidelines for the conviction. The presumptive guideline sentence is 88 months.

Friend will receive credit for 233 days already served in custody.

According to the criminal complaint, Vang was walking near the intersection of Third Street and White Bear Avenue about 8:30 p.m. when she was struck by Friend, who drove a white 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan.

Police found Vang unconscious in the street with significant injuries. She later died at Regions Hospital.

The next day, Friend turned himself in to police and admitted he was the driver of the minivan that hit Vang, according to the complaint.

"I'm the person who hit that lady," he said to police, according to the complaint. "I take full responsibility as far as what happened."

He was accompanied by a woman who said Friend took her vehicle without permission and had later admitted he had been in an accident. She told police he told her that he had hit a person and left the scene.

Friend told her there was damage to her windshield from the collision. He said he believed Vang was still alive when he drove off.

St. Paul officers found the minivan parked at Mounds Boulevard and Earl Street in a parking lot. It had cracks to the windshield and front-end damage near the passenger side.

In an Aug. 4 court motion, Friend's attorney Erik Sandvick said Friend "panicked and drove away," but turned himself in to police the next day. "Through his actions, he helped the solve this case and started the process of bringing closure to Ms. Vang's family," he wrote. "While his actions do not rise to a level of a legal defense, they do show his acceptance of responsibility for his actions."

Police reports do not indicate that Friend was speeding, swerving or driving recklessly at the time of the accident, Sandvick wrote. Vang stepped out from between two cars into the street - not in a crosswalk or at an intersection, he noted.

According to Sandvick, the final autopsy report showed Vang had a blood-alcohol content of 0.21 percent and the presence of amphetamines and methamphetamine.

In a Tuesday memo arguing for the judge to stick with sentencing guidelines, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Ambrosia Mosby-Velasco noted how Friend was previously convicted of multiple misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felonies.

At the time of the hit-and-run, Friend was serving probation after being convicted of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon in July 2020, "which the state believes is a showing that he is not particularly amenable to probation," Mosby-Velasco wrote.

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