Bail arguments over liquor store owner who struck, killed teen bicyclist

A fight over bail conditions broke out between the two sides in a criminal vehicular homicide case in Scott County that left a 15-year-old bicyclist dead.

Joseph Friedges, 72, is charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Braxton Sorenson, who was killed while riding his bicycle over the July 4 holiday weekend less than a mile from his rural Scott County home. Sorenson’s mom, Alexia came upon the deadly scene after she went looking for her son when he did not return home on time.

Friedges, of Lakeville, made a virtual court appearance with his defense attorney Christopher Grove on Tuesday. Friedges is currently out of custody on a $10,000 bond that includes several conditions including no alcohol or controlled substance use, and no driving without a valid license and insurance.

In court, defense attorney Grove reported that Friedges’ blood sample results from the deadly crash investigation have come back and showed Friedges’ blood alcohol level was at .02, significantly below the .08 legal standard to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Minnesota. 

That prompted Grove to ask for a loosening of Friedges’ bail conditions as prosecutors have alleged in the charges that Friedges may have been under the influence when he struck Sorenson near the intersection of Zachary Avenue and 260th Street West in Cedar Lake Township on Friday, July 1.

Grove told Scott County District Court Judge Christian Wilton that Friedges owns a liquor store and the bail restrictions in the case are impacting his ability to make a living. 

State business records show Friedges is the CEO and registered business agent of TDF Liquors on Main Street in Elko New Market. Grove said the state has suspended Friedges’ driver’s license after the crash, and the court’s limitation on Friedges possessing alcohol has made it impossible for him to continue to operate his business.

Prosecutor Jason Moran took exception with defense arguments, telling the judge, Friedges very much remains "a public safety risk." Moran said Friedges was driving around with a "liquor store in his vehicle" when he killed Sorenson, explaining investigators found a number of different bottles of alcohol in his vehicle, some partially consumed. 

Moran also said that Friedges’ blood sample was taken more than two hours after the deadly collision and thus, was likely higher at the time of the crash. The defense claims the liquor bottles in the vehicle were the result of a business owner transporting alcohol and nothing more suspicious.

Moran insists Friedges failed a field sobriety test on scene, and according to the criminal complaint, law enforcement noted an odor of alcohol and observed Friedges with red eyes. According to the charges, Friedges told authorities at the scene that he sneezed while his vehicle was in cruise control at 55 miles per hour, causing him to lose control.

"He shouldn’t be anywhere near alcohol," Moran said during the virtual Zoom court hearing, in arguing for bail restrictions to be enhanced.

In the end, Judge Wilton left the bail dollar amounts alone, although he added a $400,000 amount that if Friedges can afford would come with no conditions other than he show up for all future court appearances.

As for the other court requirements, the judge cleared up the record, ruling that yes, Friedges may possess alcohol only in his place of business. He cannot transport it in his vehicle while the case moves forward. Friedges also must continue to pay for alcohol monitoring that his defense attorney also opposed.

Friedges is due back in court in October. Both sides are currently waiting on the State Patrol accident reconstruction report to move forward with the case.