Driver Kills Man While Allegedly Texting, Gets 4 Days in Jail

Judge advises teacher to educate others about distracted driving
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 18, 2016 8:00 AM CDT
Updated Oct 18, 2016 9:05 AM CDT
Driver Kills Man While Allegedly Texting, Gets 4 Days in Jail
Susan Ann Russo   (Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office)

A Minnesota woman who struck and killed a man while allegedly texting and driving will spend just four days in jail over two years. As part of a plea deal, Le Sueur County Judge Mark Vandelist on Monday sentenced Susan Ann Russo to four days behind bars, 40 hours of community service with Minnesotans for Safe Driving, and two years of probation for reckless driving, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Russo, 48—who killed school bus driver Joseph Tikalsky, 79, as he was getting his morning paper on the road outside his home on Oct. 28, 2015—must also pay a $3,000 fine to be used to erect a billboard warning about distracted driving. She'll spend two days in jail beginning on the anniversary of Tikalsky's death, and again on the same date in 2017.

Russo initially told officers she was reading a text and about to respond before the crash and pleaded guilty to reckless driving and misuse of a wireless communication device before an investigation found no activity on her phone at the time. Vandelist then threw out the misuse of a wireless device charge, per Le Center Leader. However, he said Russo should have seen Tikalsky—who was wearing a reflective jacket—regardless. "You are a gifted teacher, use that gift," Vandelist told Russo on Monday, advising her to educate others on the dangers of distracted driving. Russo said she "will spend my entire life trying to make up for my mistake." "Four days or 400 days, it really doesn't matter," adds Tikalsky's widow, per CBS Minnesota. "I know she didn't mean to kill anyone." (Texting is the worst kind of distraction.)

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