Judge denies acquittal in Fredrickson case

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mower County prosecutors rested their case against Jason Fredrickson Tuesday afternoon, but the trial isn’t over.

Fredrickson’s attorney Eric Nelson motioned for an acquittal at about 4:30 p.m. in Mower County Court, but only to Judge Donald Rysavy’s apparent disgruntled reaction and comments. And Mower County assistant attorney Jeremy Clinefelter quickly disagreed with Nelson’s request and comments about the standard of law for the state not having enough evidence for a conviction.

“This court is well aware of the standard,” Clinefelter said.

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Rysavy denied the motion, and the trial will continue Wednesday with Nelson and the defense questioning their own witness.

The trial regards the crash that killed Austin residents Luke Unverzagt and Jacob Moe. Fredrickson, 45, of Elkton, is charged with six counts of criminal vehicular homicide, as he is accused as the drunken driver in that high-speed crash on Feb. 25, 2012, south of Austin. He and the other two men were ejected from the vehicle.

The jury was made well aware that Fredrickson’s attorneys will question a crash reconstruction expert with a much different account than the two experts questioned by prosecutors on Tuesday.

For nearly 3.5 hours on Tuesday, both sides bounced questions off of Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Mark Inglett, who has spent 24 years as a state patrolman and has nine years’ crash reconstruction experience. Inglett reconstructed the crash in this case, and has echoed the same remarks about the severity of the crash.

“It actually looked like some kind of explosion had happened,” he said. “There was debris everywhere.”

Inglett used photographs taken at the scene, measured skid marks, and used the ergonomics and velocity of the car to reconstruct the crash. He calculated the car left the road at about 121 mph, hit the ditch, went airborne, and rotated clockwise after hitting and snapping a utility pole. He maintains the car continued rotating clockwise with the passenger-side door turning toward the ground. He believes the undercarriage then hit a tree, and the right, front corner violently hit the ground.

That reconstruction, he believes, accounts for many injuries to the left side of all three men’s bodies. Inglett mentioned plenty more details with conviction, such as Luke Unverzagt being in the back, right seat at the time of the crash, which could explain the way he was ejected. Most important: Inglett is confident Fredrickson was the driver.

“I came to the final conclusion that Jason David Fredrickson would have been driving,” Inglett said.

Of course, a much-debated shoe surfaced again on Tuesday. During investigation of the wreckage, Fredrickson’s left shoe was found underneath the steering column, under a brake pedal. Inglett said it wouldn’t have been likely a person could toss the shoe in the vehicle and have it land in that position.

Throughout the trial, Fredrickson’s attorneys have indicated such a violent crash can’t be accurately reconstructed, as well. Nelson has even questioned whether the crash was a rollover, which would potentially jostle the occupants in the car.

Inglett said it wasn’t, and mentioned evidence to support that theory is absent.

“I am certain that the vehicle did not roll,” he said. “Either prior to hitting the tree or after hitting the tree.”

Retired Minnesota State Patrol Crash Reconstruction Coordinator Paul Skoglund agrees with most of Inglett’s conclusion. The two aren’t sure exactly how the car moved after it struck and snapped a tree before its final resting spot.

Skoglund is the man who pulled the black box, or recording device, on the vehicle. That device mentioned the car was traveling 129 mph at 100 percent acceleration five seconds before impact, or before the car went off the curved road with a 40 mph speed limit. Furthermore, Skoglund said Inglett performed his own reconstruction before learning about the black box data, a standard practice. That way, Skoglund said, Inglett couldn’t use the data to simply reach his conclusion.

Skoglund also agreed, “It was not a rollover accident.”

Nelson again alluded to the fact the crash was so severe it was hard to determine where items landed, and at one point referenced a kernel of popcorn in a popcorn bag. Skoglund wouldn’t agree with it, but knew Nelson wouldn’t let him elaborate. Throughout the trial, Nelson has interrupted witnesses with, “You’ve answered my question,” before they can say more.

“I want to answer more, but I know you won’t let me,” Skoglund said on the stand.

Nelson further pressed Skoglund about giving some credit to the expert — with a differing testimony — who will speak on Wednesday. Skoglund wanted to explain that, as well.

“Can I explain,” he asked.

“It’s a ‘yes-or-no’ question,” Nelson replied before Skoglund then said “yes.”

As Nelson’s motion for acquittal was denied on Tuesday, Wednesday’s trial continues with Fredrickson’s attorneys calling their crash expert.