Iverson, Her guilty in fatal drunk driving cases

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two men pleaded guilty in different drunk driving cases, each of which resulted in a death, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

John Iverson, 50, of Minneapolis, pleaded guilty to the single count of criminal vehicular homicide for driving his van on Feb. 3 after drinking heavily at a bar and killing a bicyclist. Yia Her, 35, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty to one count of fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle and causing a death and one count of fleeing and causing a serious injury in the Sept. 9, 2013 case in which Her crashed into a car, killing one and injuring another. Both men pled as their cases were about to go to trial Monday.

Her will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Wednesday.  Iverson will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 20 after a pre-sentence investigation is completed.

“Once again, not one but two lives have been needlessly lost and another life has been dramatically altered by severe injuries as a result of drunk driving,” Freeman said. “People need to stop folks from driving when they are drunk to protect all the innocent victims. Our office can prosecute these crimes and seek prison sentences, but that does not undo the damage.”

During his guilty plea Monday, Iverson admitted he had been drinking in a bar the night of Feb. 3 and that he drove negligently, striking the bicyclist and killing him. A later blood test found that Iverson was at .23, nearly three times the legal limit, he admitted. He also said that he had no intention of ever getting a driver’s license or driving again, but his attorney asked him if he realized that if he ever did drive and was caught driving drunk or was involved in an accident, his guilty plea in this case could result in more serious charges against him. Iverson said he understood.

Iverson turned down an offer from the county attorney’s office to plead guilty and be sentenced to a prison term consistent with the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines. Instead, he entered a straight plea and his attorney said he will be seeking a sentence as little as probation but no more than 41 months in prison. The county attorney’s office will be seeking a prison sentence consistent with the guidelines.

According to the criminal complaint, Iverson was driving westbound on Franklin Avenue at about 9:50 p.m. when he swerved towards the curb, striking 26-year-old Marcus Nalls, who was traveling westbound on his bike. Iverson crashed into parked car, went up on the sidewalk and traveled a little farther, all the time with Nalls pinned under Iverson’s van.

In the other case, Her was pulled over for speeding and weaving shortly before 1 a.m. on Sept. 9, 2013 by a State Patrol officer. However, as the officer approached the car, Her took off and exited on 11th Street from Interstate 94 and led the trooper on a chase through downtown and across the Third Avenue Bridge, according to the criminal complaint. While speeding on Central Avenue, Her ran through a red light at University Avenue and again at Fourth Street, where he smashed into the side of a car, killing the 20-year-old driver, Brody Sotona, and seriously injuring his passenger, Connor Macklin.

Monday, Her acknowledged he was drunk but drove away to escape from the state trooper.  This is the second time he has pleaded guilty to the crimes. The first time, he thought the sentence the judge was about to pronounce was too severe and withdrew his plea and demanded a jury trial instead. Once again, the judge will be free to sentence Her to a prison term within the Minnesota Sentencing guidelines.