Year in county jail for drunk driver who killed motorcyclist

Everything portraying the frustration and uselessness in efforts to curb drunk driving in Minnesota was on display in a courtroom in Le Center Monday when Kimberly Stangler got a year in jail for killing a motorcyclist last October.

If the prosecutor had his way, she could have received a maximum of 57 months in prison, which is still a pretty light loss of freedom for killing another person, but the judge was in a tough spot, as reported by the Mankato Free Press.

Judge Mark Vandelist said he couldn’t give Stangler a 48-month prison sentence and a lengthy probation under Minnesota law.

So he opted for a year in the county jail, a 30-day jail term in each of the subsequent five years on the anniversary of her crime, community service to speak publicly about drunk driving, 10 years probation, and thousands of dollars in restitution to the family of Ed Lipscomb, who was 65 years old and out for a motorcycle ride to see the fall colors when he met up with Stangler.

Despite the lengthy probation, Judge Vandelist made clear Stangler was getting a break.

“I know you regret your actions ” Vandelist told Stangler. “You asked me to give you an opportunity for redemption and I have with this sentence.”

Members of Lipscomb’s family said the sentence was fair. Earlier, they told the court what Stangler’s drinking had cost them, the Free Press says.

“He had a way of filling the room with laughter and joy,” said niece Stacy Lipscomb.

“Your selfish decision took away my ally, my rock and a dad figure,” said nephew Jason Matheson. “Your selfishness took away a really good man.”

Former colleague Pat Pierce said Ed earned several patents and was instrumental in development of numerous automotive electronic diagnostic tools at Bosch Service Solutions in Owatonna.

Cathie and Sean said they’ve been dealing with crippling depression, guilt and anxiety since the loss of their husband and father.

“I had to cancel all those plans that he had spent months making,” Cathie said of their winter travel intentions. “I was not going to go anywhere without him. I wanted to stay home in my house where no one could hurt me.”

“My family and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome,” Lipscomb’s son, Sean, said. “It was clear the judge put a lot of thought behind it and was sincere.”

Stangler may well come up with the words that make a difference in a future speech to people about the perils of drunk driving and, besides, harsh sentences haven’t done much to stem the carnage on Minnesota’s roads from people who drink and drive.

With the sentence, Stangler may find redemption and forgiveness. But the broader reality is Minnesota’s drunk driving problem will continue and more innocents like Ed Lipscomb are going to die.

  • When I was doing police work on the 1980s, I arrested lots of drunk drivers. Sadly, it seems as if there is still an unending supply of them. We need to approach the problem from every direction: education, enforcement, technology, rehabilitation coupled with lengthy probation, incarceration, intervention training, and brainstorming new solutions. It’s so sad that the worst offenders can be back to re-offend again and again, and as they do the probability of innocents suffering injury and death increases.

  • Doug

    I understand how serious this is and the loss to the victim’s family. However, I don’t understand what a lengthy prison sentence would accomplish. The death was either the result of an addiction problem or bad decision making. There was no intent to do evil. An addiction should be treated and who of us hasn’t made bad decisions. I believe the sentence given is best. The public will benefit from the community service and, hopefully, another life won’t be destroyed.

    • Thus the frustration. Nothing works. A lengthy prison sentence wouldn’t accomplish anything. Nothing is working.

      It’s like texting while driving. Surely everyone has heard the stories and warnings and maybe even the first-person stories of tragedy. But people don’t think it applies to them.

      Very sad

      • Postal Customer

        Autonomous cars work. It’s coming.

        • Barton

          and the fact that they cannot “see” pedestrians or cyclists.

          • Brian Simon

            Got data? My perception is that autonomous cars see cyclists & pedestrians better than human driver’s do.

    • Mike

      I propose this: revocation of her driver’s license for life. If she’s caught drunk-driving again, she goes to prison until she’s 80. I bet if that were standard practice, it would get people’s attention.

      • You know at these things, there’s always a comment that sentences should send a message etc. etc. But the problem is so much deeper than that. The role of alcohol in states like Minnesota is so much cultural that the only way to save the innocents long term is a change in culture.

        At a time when a new taproom or brewpub is the answer to every economic woe, I don’t see that happening .

        • Mike

          I have no problem with more public funds being spent on treatment; it’s not an either/or proposition. I’m just tired of drunks killing people because it’s stupid and totally unnecessary. These days, with the ubiquity of services like Uber or Lyft, there’s less excuse than ever to drink and drive.

        • QuietBlue

          OTOH, there are plenty of countries where alcohol is more widely available than it is here, and consumption more the norm, that don’t have nearly the problems we do with drunk driving. The fact that we treat driving as a right, rather than a privilege, doesn’t help.

          • >>The fact that we treat driving as a right, rather than a privilege, doesn’t help.<<

            It helps when those countries have a robust public transportation system

          • QuietBlue

            Yes, it certainly does. But they also have much stronger laws and punishments for drunk driving as well.

          • Agreed!

        • jon

          How’s about zoning laws?

          remove parking lots from bars…

          Mandate any newly constructed bar be within 100 yards of a public transit stop and that it has a bike rack, and is on streets with sidewalks.

      • Jim in RF

        I really don’t buy that. I don’t think that fear of the sentence really factors into crime in a significant way anymore. Texas has the death penalty and a crazy high violent crime rate. I can’t say why there’s the disconnect, but I think there is. I think a bigger deterrent is shame and loss of standing in their family and workplace, but given the anonymity of the justice system, families and workplaces might not ever know about a crime. I remember a coworker (years ago) telling everyone he was taking two weeks off for PTO — later on, after he’d left, we learned it was because he was in jail for domestic violence.

      • Laurie K.

        I think that to increase a person’s sentence to a grossly disproportionate punishment simply to send a message to discourage others from offending is not the best use of judicial powers. What one judge does would not necessarily deter us, as a society, from the criminal act being punished.

        • Right. This is, I imagine, the toughest part of being a judge. What is the proper punishment in cases where you think just living with what you’ve done is a punishment?

          In terms of her future speeches, all she’s really got to go on is that because she’s not going to be able to get through to people by stressing judicial punishment.

          • Laurie K.

            Another part of her punishment that was not reported is that she must attend AA or NA. Setting aside my thoughts on 12-step programs, I was glad to see that the judge made this a condition. If Ms. Stangler does have an alcohol problem, she may at least be able to make some progress with her addiction with people who understand the nature of the disease. Hopefully she can someday be in a position to help someone else with their journey.

  • Brian Simon

    As disheartening as this sentence is, it’s more strict than those imposed on people who kill while texting and driving.

  • Gary F

    Just wait until stoned people start killing people while driving.

    • X.A. Smith

      Why do you suppose they haven’t started yet?

    • Rob

      What are you smoking?

      • Gary F

        Smoked plenty in my day, it affected my driving.

        • jon

          How’d you know?
          Did you have a driving test while both stoned and sober?
          Because when inebriated YOUR judgement can’t be trusted…

          That’s kind of the whole point.

          Experts say:
          https://www.livescience.com/51450-driving-on-marijuana-alcohol-dangerous.html

          “People who are drunk “are physically impaired, and they don’t really think they’re physically impaired,” Hansen told Live Science “They’ll drive faster, they’ll follow cars at closer distances, they’ll make rash, last-minute decisions.”

          By contrast, people who are slightly stoned may be more risk-averse and overestimate their impairment. For instance, people who have smoked just a third of a joint will say they are impaired, even when driving tests show no such effects, according to a 1993 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.”

          • Gary F

            Did a lot of both 30 years ago.

          • Did you do both at the same time?

          • Gary F

            sure, young and dumb.

          • Given the links upthread, it’s highly possible that the alcohol was to blame for your inability to drive safely.

            As Jon put it: Because when inebriated YOUR judgement can’t be trusted…