Judge shows mercy to contrite bee trucker in fatal crash - New York News

Judge shows mercy to contrite bee trucker in fatal crash

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The truck driver whose distraction behind the wheel resulted in a crash that killed two women, an unborn child and released thousands of honey bees will go to jail -- but his sentence will be short after the judge showed mercy to the father of three.

Jason Strybicky, 38, of Buffalo, was sentenced to a fraction of the time he could have faced -- in part because of the remorse he showed after the crash.

Two years ago, Strybicky was driving a semi-trailer full of honey bees when he came upon a traffic jam on Interstate 35 in Lakeville and slammed into two stopped cars. During his trial, he admitted to taking his eyes off the road while reaching for an energy drink.

The crash was horrific, crushing two cars between semis and releasing millions of bees.

The case was one that highlighted the power of both contrition and forgiveness. One of the victim's families told the judge they would be fine with no prison time at all for Strybicky, saying the crash could have happened to anyone.

"He didn't plan to do this," said Todd Brinkhaus. "It's not like he's intentionally holding a gun -- but I suppose, if you had a semi, it's pretty much like having a loaded gun."

Brinkaus' wife, Pamela, was killed in the crash. Her family told the judge that "neither side wins" in the tragedy, but the family of 24-year-old Kari Rasmussen didn't want Strybicky to spend time behind bars. In fact, Rasmussen's husband told the judge the crash was "just an accident."

"Each victim reacts differently," said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom. "Some are willing to open their hearts and offer forgiveness, and some are not quite ready to do that at the time sentencing occurs."

State guidelines called for a four-year prison sentence for each of the three victims -- including Rasmussen's unborn child; however, considering the requests of the victims' family members and Strybicky's remorse, the judge opted for one year in jail and 40 hours of community service spent speaking to drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

"Everybody can screw up," said John Cummings, of Minnesotans for Safe Driving. "It's what you do afterwards that tells who you are."

Minnesotans for Safe Driving organizes victim impact panels, and he says Strybicky's story has the power to save other lives.

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