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Posted on: April 8, 2019

Court of Appeals Reverse Distracted Driver’s Stayed Sentence for Chad Gibson

Court of Appeals Reverse Distracted Driver’s Stayed Sentence

The Minnesota Court of Appeals today reversed a Rice County District Court Judge’s decision to not send Chad Michael Gibson to prison for the death he caused in August 2016.

Gibson was southbound on I35 on August 13, 2016.  He passed six miles of warning signs saying “BE PREPARED TO STOP,” “ROAD WORK AHEAD,” and “USE BOTH LANES DURING BACKUPS.”  Despite these signs, Gibson drove with his cruise control set at 78 miles an hour.  At the intersection with I35 and Minn. Hwy 60, there was a backup and Gibson crashed into the parked car in front of him. According to the electronic information from his vehicle and the traffic management camera, Gibson did not apply his brakes or slow down at all prior to the crash. Gibson told a trooper he was looking for a Mountain Dew at the time of the crash.


The driver of the vehicle Gibson hit, Scott Connell was killed, his passenger, Edda Connell suffered significant long term injuries in the crash.  Gibson pled guilty to Criminal Vehicular Homicide in the death of Scott Connell and to Criminal Vehicular operation for the injuries to Edda Connell. 

At sentencing the trial court accepted Gibson’s argument that he was amenable to probation, and found that this was less serious than cases where the defendant was drinking and driving.  The Court of Appeals rejected those determinations and found that the departure was inappropriate.

The Court of appeals concluded its analysis:

The district court misapplied the law in determining that Gibson’s conduct was less egregious than that of a typical offender because it applied a legally impermissible comparison and based its conclusion on clearly erroneous factual findings. Given Gibson’s prior criminal and probationary history and his failure to make all court appearances, the district court’s finding that he was particularly amenable to probation was also clearly erroneous. Because the record does not support that there are “substantial and compelling 15 circumstances” that would justify a downward dispositional departure from a presumptive guidelines sentence, we reverse the district court’s grant of Gibson’s motion for a downward dispositional departure and remand for resentencing of his offenses in accordance with this opinion.

Rice County Attorney John Fossum, who prosecuted the case in the trial court, said “The Court of Appeals opinion upholds our argument that this was a serious offense and the conduct of Mr. Gibson in causing a death of motorist should not be minimized.”  Chief Assistant Rice County Attorney Terence Swihart argued the case on appeal.

Read Court documents here 


John Fossum, Rice County Attorney         (507)-332-6103

Sara Folsted, Rice County Administrator (507) 332-6121

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