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Blaine man gets 8 months for high-speed St. Anthony crash that injured two

In World
April 25, 2024

A Blaine man was sentenced Wednesday to eight months in jail and five years of probation for driving more than 100 mph while drunk and crashing into an SUV last fall in St. Anthony, seriously injuring the 21-year-old driver and her young brother.

Matthew Sukhram, 19, pleaded guilty Feb. 21 in Ramsey County District Court to two counts of criminal vehicular operation while under the influence of alcohol — one for causing great-bodily harm, the other for causing substantial bodily harm — in connection with the Sept. 16 crash at Minnesota 88 and 29th Avenue Northeast.

Soua Vang and her 10-year-old brother AV Vang were both diagnosed with bleeding on the brain. Two days later, the condition of the boy was still described as “hour by hour,” the charges say. The boy was also diagnosed with extensive internal injuries to his liver, spleen and kidneys, and he had surgery to remove part of his stomach.

Sukhram was hospitalized with a broken pelvis and a fractured spine. On Wednesday, he appeared in court in a wheelchair.

Court records show that Sukhram had been convicted of speeding four times since July 2021.

About seven hours before the crash, Sukhram was stopped for speeding in Blaine and cited for reckless driving after an officer clocked him on a radar going 83 mph in a 55 mph zone. He pleaded guilty last month to an amended charge and was put on probation for one year.

Because Sukhram has no prior felony convictions, state sentencing guidelines called for probation in the St. Anthony crash. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to seek no more than eight months in jail on each count, which Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Ryan Flynn asked Judge DeAnne Hilgers on Wednesday to hand down.

Sukhram’s attorney Paul Young asked that the eight months be staggered and, if the defendant continued to comply with treatment and remained law abiding, the jail time be waived.

Hilgers declined that request and instead ordered that Sukhram serve eight months without work release. She gave him the option to serve jail time on weekends so he could continue treatment on weekdays. Sukhram was ordered to participate in a MADD panel, and restitution was left open for two months.

‘I ran from the cops’

According to the criminal complaint filed in the crash:

A Ramsey County sheriff’s deputy saw Sukhram driving a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee around 10:45 p.m. on Interstate 35W south near Mounds View Boulevard at more than 100 mph. The deputy turned on his emergency lights and siren, but Sukhram made multiple lane changes and swerved around other vehicles.

Near Interstate 694, Sukhram turned off his headlights as he continued to flee at speeds of around 120 mph. Sukhram exited onto County Road D West. Once the deputy realized he had lost sight of the Jeep, he turned off his squad lights and siren.

A St. Anthony police officer then saw the Jeep heading south on Highway 88 from County Road D without headlights. No squad was actively pursuing the speeding vehicle, the complaint notes.

Moments later, Sukhram crashed into the other vehicle, a 2023 Honda HR-V, which was on its side when law enforcement arrived on scene. Sukhram’s Jeep was fully engulfed in flames in the median about 100 yards south of the impact site. Car parts were strewn 150 to 200 yards from the point of impact.

Sukhram was lying on the ground near his Jeep. He smelled of alcohol, and a preliminary breath test showed his blood alcohol content was 0.093 percent.

Soua Vang was unconscious and had to be extracted through the broken windshield.

Her brother was found in the back of the Honda. “The pediatric doctor told police (the boy) was the worst pediatric case she had seen,” the complaint says.

In an interview, Sukhram said he met his sister and her friends at a restaurant and that he only had chips and queso. He said he had two drinks of Tito’s vodka before noon the day of the crash, but stopped drinking.

When asked what he recalled, Sukhram said, “I ran from the cops,” the complaint states. He acknowledged seeing the squad lights and hearing the siren. He recalled turning off his lights to evade law enforcement and that squads were not right behind him at the time of the crash.

Sukhram never asked about the condition of the people in the car he struck, according to the complaint, which adds that his “only concern was what amount his bail was going to be.”

Out of character?

On Wednesday, Flynn showed three pictures of the crash victims while they were hospitalized.

“Your Honor, looking at this case bluntly, the defendant’s impulsive, intoxicated decisions completely devastated this family,” he said.

The crash victims did not attend the hearing. “They don’t want to see the defendant,” Flynn said. “They don’t want to have to remember this. But in the end, this is their new reality. And the defendant’s remorse alone cannot change that.”

Last month, Soua Vang and the boy’s mother filed a civil lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court against Sukhram and his father, who owned the Jeep. Vang and her brother suffered serious and permanent injuries and disabilities, according to the lawsuit, which seeks in excess of $50,000.

Sukhram apologized to the victims and their family on Wednesday, saying: “I can’t find the right words to express my deep regret. I’m truly sorry. I’m holding out hope and praying for your complete recovery.”

Hilgers noted Sukhram’s previous speeding citations and how he “never asked about the condition of those two people that we saw on the screen earlier today.”

Hilgers said she read the 11 letters of support for Sukhram that his family and friends gave the court before his sentencing, noting the theme was that what happened was out of character for him. She disagreed.

“What you did and what you said at the time of the accident was very much in character with your history,” she said.

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