Thursday, December 13, 2012

Driver jailed after being distracted by sex in fatal crash

A driver whose girlfriend died in a collision as the pair had sex said he would trade his life for the lives of his two victims "in a heartbeat," as he begged a judge to not send him to prison for the crash that also killed another driver. Mark Chalin's plea for leniency on Monday was only one of many emotional moments during a sentencing hearing in Mankato, Minnesota, that ended with the mother of Amber Menezes, 23, who was Chalin's girlfriend and one of those killed, kneeling on the courtroom floor.

She had just attempted to follow Chalin, 24, through a door that leads to the jail. "Mark, Mark," Michelle Scholl said as Chalin was led away by a bailiff. "You do good. Make the best of this." Then Scholl, Menezes' mother, fell to the floor, pounded it with both hands and said, "Nobody wins."

Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney recommended a 58-month prison sentence for the Aug. 7, 2011, crash that also killed mother-of-four, Jonna Martin, 35, of Lakefield. Witnesses told investigators that Chalin was driving recklessly on U.S. 169 shortly before he hit Martin head-on as both cars were travelling on Blue Earth County Road 90. Menezes was on Chalin's lap and it appeared they had been having sex before Chalin veered into Martin's lane and smashed into her car while she slowed and pulled to the shoulder.

Chalin's attorney, Jacob Birkholz, asked District Judge Bradley Walker to issue a sentence below the 48 to 58 months recommended by sentencing guidelines. Judge Walker said he listened to everything everyone had to say and reviewed all the information from the case carefully. The courtroom was dead silent after he issued his sentence: four years in prison with the possibility of supervised release after about three years.

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