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Lake Park man goes for plea instead of another court trial

A Lake Park man who was granted a new trial last year on a 2008 conviction for criminal vehicular homicide opted instead for a plea agreement that allowed his sentence to be reduced to time served.

Jeremy Scott Nelson, 32, of Lake Park, was sentenced to 33 months in prison — approximately the amount of time he had already served since his arrest.

The sentence was a downward departure from the 48-month sentence that would normally follow such a conviction, according to court records.

Also according to the court minutes, the plea agreement was accepted because it was “supported by the unique circumstances” of the case, and it was in the best interests of both parties in the case not to go through a second trial.

Nelson was driving the pickup truck that struck an all-terrain vehicle driven by Christopher Wade Carlson, 29, on Aug. 17, 2008. Carlson was killed in the crash.

Nelson was convicted of three counts of vehicular homicide in late March of 2010 and sentenced to 48 months in state prison.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court reversed Nelson’s convictions in November 2011, and found that Judge Irvine abused his discretion by not allowing the jury to hear evidence that Carlson was drinking.

Carlson had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 after the crash, and had in fact been escorted home by friends earlier in the evening because they were concerned he was too drunk to drive, stated Nelson’s appellate attorney, Jenneane Jansen of Minneapolis.

The appeals court agreed with Jansen and Chief Appellate Public Defender Suzanne M. Senecal–Hill that evidence of the victim’s drinking prior to the crash was relevant.

The appeals court determined that both Nelson and Carlson had behaved negligently prior to the crash.

Evidence at the trial showed Nelson was under the influence of alcohol and was speeding when he drove into a ditch on County Road 1 near Lake Park, just before he hit Carlson’s ATV.

But the appellate judges said Carlson had also been driving his ATV irresponsibly on the night of the accident — traveling on a highway without lights or a side-view mirror. And they said he drove into the ditch and veered in front of Nelson just before the pickup truck hit the ATV from behind.