Esko woman pleads guilty to hit and run
An Esko woman who allegedly left the scene of an accident after striking and injuring a bicyclist while driving home from church on June 16 pleaded guilty in Carlton County Court on Wednesday.
Carol Emily Nygren, 70, appeared before Judge Dale Wolf for a settlement conference. Her attorney, Joanna Weigert, informed Judge Wolf that a plea agreement had been reached in the case. She said Nygren had agreed to plead guilty to one felony count of criminal vehicular operation (leaving the scene of an accident) in the incident, which occurred at the corner of Highway 61 and Rolling Road near Esko.
Weigert also said that as part of the agreement, Nygren has agreed to permanently surrender her driver's license, pay personal restitution and write a letter of apology to the victim. In return, the agreement recommends that Nygren be sentenced to five years of probation.
During subsequent questioning by Judge Wolf, Nygren admitted to driving near Esko the morning of June 16, hitting the cyclist with her vehicle, which threw him onto the hood of her car and into the windshield on the passenger side, and then leaving the scene of the accident. According to the criminal complaint filed in the incident, Nygren was not located until the day following the accident, at which time she denied responsibility for the incident, though her car appeared to have sustained significant damage. The complaint stated Nygren told authorities she'd been following a truck hauling gravel and that falling rocks had been responsible for the damage.
Judge Wolf pointed out that the victim, Michael Howard Norton, 44, of Duluth sustained multiple skull fractures from the incident as well as broken bones and internal injuries. He said the internal injuries qualify as "grave bodily harm," which enhances the degree of severity of the crime.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Boese said Norton has had to have multiple brain surgeries since the incident and continues to suffer from traumatic brain injury-like symptoms and seizures.
Weigert informed Judge Wolf that Nygren "doesn't have a clear memory of what happened" at the time of the incident and pointed out that Nygren takes several medications. Judge Wolf asked Nygren if that was indeed the case, and she said that it was, though she added, "I don't think it was [due to] the medications."
Nygren went on to say that she believes the terms of the plea agreement are fair.
Judge Wolf pointed out to her that by pleading guilty to the felony count of criminal vehicular operation, if she is sued over the incident in a civil case, the conviction can be used against her. He went on to order a pre-sentence investigation and set Nygren's sentencing date for at 9 a.m. Feb. 19, 2014.
Nygren has been out of jail on pretrial conditional release during the course of the court proceedings.