Last August 25 year-old Kirstin Kealy got behind the wheel of her car with a blood alcohol level of .26 which is three times the legal limit, reaching speeds of up to 90 miles an hour. 40 miles an hour over the posted speed limit.
Kellie Stien pulled into what she thought was an empty traffic lane on Coon Rapids Blvd, in Minnesota when her Pontiac Firebird was rear-ended by Kealy.
A single mother, Kealy had previously maintained a clean slate, nothing on either her driving or criminal record and her first offense left her victim permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Her first extended trip from the hospital since the accident was Thursday, to attend the sentencing.
Kealy had a night of drinking at Biff’s bar in Spring Lake Park and made the decision to drive home. A court document says that she originally lied to police when she denied being the driver. Later she was charged with and plead guilty to felony criminal operation of a vehicle resulting in great bodily harm.
Kealy’s attorney, Jan Mansell, asked for a six month sentence, stating “Everybody will be forever impacted by this and she wants to be accountable,” going on to say “It was an alcohol-impaired decision. It can happen to anybody, even if it is the first time.”
Judge James Cunningham Jr. did not honor that request. If she had not plead guilty and the case had come before a jury, Cunningham believes she would be seeing a very different result. Kealy received one year in jail and Cunningham told her “he’s not one to beat up on people” but, “You’ve received a tremendous break on your sentence.”
Cunningham continues “If I had more latitude, I would have sentenced you to jail for a lot longer.”
One year was the suggested sentence because of Kealy’s previously clean record. Assistant county attorney Wade Kish said after the hearing that he wished the law could be changed.
“When you’re talking about great bodily harm, there can be a wide range of the actual level of harm inflicted on the person,” he said.
Stein considers her life over. She takes forty pills a day and says her health is deteriorating.
“I just lie in a hospital watching television.” She said. “I consider myself an artist, but I can’t even write my own name.”
“If the roles were reversed,” says Stein, “At least I’d still have a life after prison time.”