MANKATO (TEC News) -- A Mankato man will serve ten years probation, but no additional jail time for running over and killing another man last September in a downtown church parking lot.
A judge today sentenced 21-year-old Aaron Whiteaker to 58 months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of Criminal Vehicular Homicide.
As part of the plea agreement, the prison term will be stayed for the duration of Whiteaker's ten years of supervised probation. He was also sentenced to 365 days in jail. He received credit for the 243 days already served and with good time will spend no more time behind bars.
He was also given a $6,000 fine and could face additional financial obligations from a pending civil lawsuit.
Three other felony charges were dropped as part of the plea.
20-year-old Thanh Tri Vu was run over by a car driven-by Whiteaker. Witnesses says he was trying to leave a scene where he was being threatened by the victim and others. He recalled hearing a thump, but drove away.
The fatal wounds to Vu were from head trauma. He was kept on life support for several days until family members could arrive at the hospital.
During the hearing, an uncle read a victim's impact statement on behalf Vu's mother, who was in attendance.
The letter, written in Vietnamese and read by the uncle, was then translated by another in English for the courtroom.
"I didn't think you'd leave me so early on," read the uncle. "I hurt on the inside when you lay on the table and you not wake up once."
"When you died my emotions are shattered, my spirits crushed when you are forever gone."
"The person who did this to you has made me very sick," wrote Vu's mother.
Later, Whiteaker asked the Vu family for their forgiveness.
"My actions following the accident were wrong," said Whiteaker. He said, however, his intentions were not malicious.
Whiteaker's attorney Carrie Guinn Marsh Leone was emotional making her case for her client in front of Judge Bradley Walker.
"Aaron stands before you asking for you mercy," said Leone. "It was an accident."
Leone described the parking lot scene as "pure mayham."
In arguing for the plea, Leone says no one can be sure what caused Vu's fatal injuries.
Vu died from a skull fracture, but there was no evidence it was cause by the collision with Vu's car. Leone says an autopsy showed only tire injuries to Vu's hip and thigh.
Whiteaker says he felt threatened by another man approaching from the driver's side and Vu approaching with a large branch from the passenger side.
Whiteaker says he swerved to avoid the man approaching from his side.
"Could he (Vu) has tripped carrying the limb?" asked Leone.
Leone asked Judge Walker to give Whiteaker, who earned his GED while in jail, "a chance to change his destiny."
Before handing down his sentencing, Judge Walker said "This has been a terrible tragedy." But added that the "court has no authoritiy to turn back the clock."
"I have to do what is right today," concluded Walker. "I'm gona follow the recommendations."
In addition to the probation, Walker ordered six days of sentence to service for each year Whiteaker is on probation starting in 2012.
Also starting in 2012, Whiteaker must spend the weekend in jail on the Friday preceeding the accident.
In court, Vu's girlfriend Alyssa Dahlgren (pictured with Vu left), talked about telling him not to be scared as they unplugged the machines that kept him alive. She said "every morning when I wake up I have to remind myself that he is dead."
After the hearing Dahlgren said she dosen't wish bad for Whiteaker.
"I don't want him to fail at life," said Dahlgren. "It would almost be like two deaths occurred."
"I'd rather him take this and make something positive from it." said Dahlgren.