Trucker Browsing Zillow App Moments Before Fatal Crash Is Sentenced
Lake Elmo, Minnesota – A trucker who was scrolling through a popular real estate app on his phone in the moments leading up to a fatal crash last year was sentenced on Friday in a Washington County courtroom.
Truck driver Samuel Hicks, 29, of Independence, Wisconsin, was operating along Highway 36 on February 27, 2018 when he failed to slow for stopped traffic.
Hicks’ tractor-trailer plowed into the rear of a vehicle stopped at a red light and being driven by 54-year-old Robert Bursik.
Bursik, who was a biology professor at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, MN, was killed in the crash.
Investigators recovered the in-cab video footage which showed Hicks was distracted a full 8 seconds leading up to impact with Bursik’s vehicle.
Hicks was traveling at 63 mph at impact and never made any attempt to brake, according to court documents.
After the crash, Hicks admitted to authorities he was scrolling through the popular real estate app, Zillow.
He said he was texting with his girlfriend and trying to look up information about a house they were interested in purchasing.
In October 2018 Hicks pleaded not guilty to a charge of criminal vehicular homicide.
However, in April of this year, Hicks pleaded guilty to the charge and reached a plea agreement with prosecutors.
He faced a Washington County judge on Friday to receive his sentence.
Before Hicks was sentenced by Judge Greg Galler, Bursik’s widow, Jessica, spoke as Hicks sat somberly next to his attorney, Earl Gray.
“The act of texting and driving is inherently a selfish thing. Texting and driving a semi-truck is outrageous and should be sadly condemned by society,” Jessica Bursik said.
When Hicks was given the opportunity to speak, he slowly rose from his seat and said, “Can I offer an apology to the family? From the bottom of my heart I’d really like to say that I am sorry and I wished it had never happened.”
Judge Galler then issued his sentence according to terms of a plea agreement.
Hicks will immediately begin serving 365 days in the Washington County Jail and receive a 48-month suspended sentence.
He will also be on probation for 10 years and have his commercial driver’s licensed revoked.
As part of the probation, Hicks will agree to participate in anti-distracted driving campaigns with the Minnesota State Patrol.
Gray requested that Hicks’ sentence be suspended for one week to give his client time to say goodbye to his children and inform his employer that he will not be returning to work.
Judge Galler noted the “irony” of the request.
He quickly denied it before Hicks was led out of the courtroom by a Washington County deputy.
(Image shared courtesy of Mary Divine/Pioneer Press)
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