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Fatal accident near University sparks criminal and civil charges

Author / Coordinator: Robert Koch
Minnesota Daily
May 2000

A Minneapolis man faces criminal and civil charges following a March 6 accident outside Mariucci Arena that killed a University of St. Thomas student.

Jason Brank, 22, allegedly lost control of a red Volkswagen Jetta shortly after 1 a.m. and struck a light pole at Oak and Fourth streets southeast.

Passenger Amie Moland, 20, was taken to the Hennepin County Medical Center, where she died as a result of her injuries.

Moland's family is now seeking witnesses to clarify discrepancies in details of the accident.

"Somebody had to phone in that accident," said Myron Moland, Amie's father. "We want to talk to that person."

Criminal charges

Brank was charged May 19 with criminal vehicular homicide based on his blood-alcohol level, which measured 0.188, almost twice the legal limit.

The criminal complaint cites several accounts given to police by witnesses of the accident.

Brank, whom police found sitting on the ground immediately after the crash, said he was drunk, but added that Moland -- the car's owner -- was driving.

Moland's roommate said she saw Moland in the driver's seat and Brank standing outside the car as it was parked at the SuperAmerica station at 3357 University Ave. S.E. at about 1 a.m., before the accident.

But firefighters reported finding Moland in the front passenger seat with her seat belt fastened.

Bruce Hanley, Brank's criminal defense attorney, said the accident requires investigation and that he is not prepared to accept the initial reports as fact.

"We always challenge the initial reports," Hanley said. "People make mistakes."

Hanley represented a Northwest Airlines flight engineer charged in 1990 with flying while under the influence of alcohol. He lost the case in federal court.

Brank was released from custody under the condition that he abstain from drug or alcohol use and subject himself to random testing.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for June 7.

If Brank is convicted of criminal vehicular homicide, he could face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.

Ross Corson, spokesman for the Hennepin County attorney's office, said his office has charged eight cases of criminal vehicular homicide this year, including the accident that killed Minnesota Timberwolves player Malik Sealy on May 20.

Parents file lawsuit

In a related development, Moland's parents have filed a civil suit against Brank.

Drafted March 16, it alleges that Brank caused Moland's death by negligently operating the vehicle and causing it to crash.

"We're trying to locate witnesses to the accident," said Carolyn Gruesner, legal assistant to James Schwebel, the attorney representing the Moland family in the lawsuit.

Moland's parents are seeking more than $50,000.