Driver charged in East Bethel crash that severely injured construction worker

The East Bethel woman who severely injured a construction worker last year is finally facing legal recourse.

Although 20-year-old Jordan Lynn Paulus admitted to looking down at her phone before crashing into Laura Berg, she'll face a gross misdemeanor reckless driving charge - a decision that all boils down to "gross negligence" and how the act is defined by Minnesota law.

"It didn't rise to the threshold of grossly negligent in the eyes of the county attorney,” said Anoka County Sheriff’s spokesman Dan Douglas.

Because Paulus didn't lose control of her car, wasn't speeding and wasn’t impaired, by definition Paulus wasn't "grossly negligent.”

“Our office has our own opinions on this, but we do yield to the Anoka county attorney’s office,” Douglas said.

Tony Polumbo’s decision left East Bethel’s city prosecutor, Joe Van Thomme, to press a non-felonious charge against Paulus.

The preventable crash happened near 7th Street NE after Paulus told investigators she looked down at a Snapchat notification on her phone. By the time Paulus looked up to see traffic stopped in front of her, she had to swerve to miss hitting other vehicles, striking Berg instead. 

“Horrible outcome, yet not rising to what would be considered felonious behavior,” Douglas said.

Paulus is now accused of “consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk,” a charge that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail, a $3,000 fine or both. 

But Daniel Douglas doubts Paulus will meet even those consequences.

“Rarely do we see the maximum sentences handed down,” he said.

Fox 9 was unsuccessful in our attempts to reach Paulus. 

Meanwhile, after Laura Berg was left in a coma for several months - with multiple injuries - she plans to push through even if the impairments alter the course of her life.

“In other states, there’s signs saying if you hit a construction worker, this is how much you’re going to get charged, and this is how many years you’re going to get. So, something has to change here,” she said.

Paulus will appear in court on Sept. 19, 2018.