Drunk driver in police chase, fatal crash pleads guilty

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yia Her pleaded guilty to fleeing police and killing one person and injuring another, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday.

Her, 34, of St. Paul pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in Hennepin County District Court and will be sentenced April 10. He also pleaded guilty to the aggravating circumstances of having been on parole at the time and driving on a suspended license with no insurance. By pleading guilty to those circumstances, the county attorney’s office can seek a prison sentence longer than required by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.

After some reluctance, Her entered the straight plea of fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle resulting in the death of Brody Sotona and fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle resulting in injury to Connor Macklin.

When first asked by the clerk if he pleaded guilty or not guilty, he launched into a rambling speech, through an interpreter, about someone else dying and “at that time I was so drunk I didn’t know what I was doing,” before finally saying he was guilty.

Her’s lawyer, Julius Nolen, asked him a series of questions about what happened the early morning of Sept. 9. Nolen had told Her that if he was pleading guilty, he had to give up all possible defenses to the crime, including claiming he was too drunk. When Nolen asked if he remembered being chased by police, then about deciding to flee the State Patrol officer, Her started each answer with “I was so drunk.”

Finally, Hennepin County District Court Judge Martha Holton Dimick called both Nolen and Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Daniel Homstad to the bench for a discussion. Nolen then had a brief talk with Her.

After that, Her admitted that he knew it was a police officer who pulled him over on Interstate 94, that he took off again and led police on a long chase and that he had a blood alcohol content of 0.16. Her also admitted that he knew it was a police officer chasing him and that the officer hit his car several times to get him to pull over. Instead, Her said, he kept going on Minneapolis streets until he ran a red light and struck broadside the car driven by Sotona.

Nolen asked him if he understood that when he hit the car, the other driver was killed and Her said he learned of the death when he was discharged from the hospital. Her also admitted that he knew the passenger suffered long-lasting and perhaps permanent injury.

The chase went through the streets of downtown Minneapolis at high speeds, across the Third Avenue Bridge and continued north on Central Avenue until the collision at Fourth Street Southeast.