by April Scheinoha
A Thief River Falls man was sentenced Monday, Oct. 31 for his role in a 2015 head-on crash that killed his friend.
Scott Wayne Srnsky, 42, was sentenced to 68 months in prison for a felony charge of criminal vehicular homicide. He was given credit for time served. Judge Kurt Marben ordered him to provide a DNA sample. Srnsky was also ordered to pay $210 in fees and fines.
Jacob James Kasprowicz, 29, Warren, was killed in the May 26, 2015, crash along 190th Street Northeast, a couple of miles northwest of the city of Thief River Falls.
A Pennington County jury convicted Srnsky of the charge in August 2016 after deliberating for about three-and-a-half hours. Jurors heard testimony from two crash reconstructionists who gave opposing testimony as to which driver crossed into the opposing lane of traffic. They also heard testimony that Srnsky told a Grand Forks, N.D., police sergeant that he was playing chicken with Kasprowicz at the time of the crash.
At the time of the accident, Srnsky was driving a 2000 Chevy Silverado westbound on 190th Street Northeast in ideal weather conditions in the afternoon. Kasprowicz was driving an eastbound 1999 Pontiac Grand Am. The vehicles collided head-on on the southern edge of the eastbound lane. The vehicles then caught fire. Srnsky was injured in the crash. No one witnessed the accident.
Prior to the trial, Marben suppressed evidence gathered during a warrantless blood draw completed before Srnsky was airlifted to Fargo, N.D., after the crash. Methamphetamine was detected in that blood sample.
Prior to the trial, both sides filed motions related to whether the jury could hear evidence about Srnsky’s usage of meth. The state asked to be able to introduce evidence to that extent if the defense introduced evidence regarding Kasprowicz being under the influence of or possessing meth.
The defense filed motions requesting that the jury not be allowed to hear such testimony regarding Srnsky, purported drug paraphernalia in his vehicle, or the status of his driving privileges.
No such testimony along either lines was offered at trial.
On Monday, Kasprowicz’s son and sister spoke in court about their loss. “There’s a big piece of my heart missing,” said Jayce Kasprowicz, now 13.
The day of the accident was Jayce’s last day of school. Looking back, he cried as he recalled telling everyone at school about how he planned to spend time with his dad during his summer vacation. It wasn’t meant to be.
Jayce said, “I can still hear those awful words, ‘Jayce, your dad passed away.’”
Jayce’s aunt Tasha Kasprowicz also spoke. Speaking to Srnsky, Tasha said, “On May 26, 2015, you forever changed our family’s lives.”
Tasha noted how her brother would have given Srnsky the shirt off of his back. She recalled Srnsky had told her brother that he hadn’t eaten for days one time, and her brother made him something to eat.
Noting her brother was far from perfect, Tasha described the help her brother provided to their parents and also to their brother Zach after Zach was paralyzed in a November 2010 accident.
Saying she could remember it like yesterday, Tasha recalled hearing about her brother’s death. She said their mom had just left for work, only to return about 20 minutes later. Once their mom was able to get the words out, she and Zach learned that Jacob had died.
Tasha added that she knows her brother wasn’t playing chicken, but her brother couldn’t defend himself. She indicated this wasn’t the first time Srnsky had driven “dumb” and she prays that another family doesn’t have to endure what her family has had to endure. Tasha said, “There is no sentence long enough for you.”
Prior to sentencing, Srnsky was given the opportunity to speak. He apologized but asked what a driver should do if someone is in front of them. “He was my friend,” Srnsky said.
Srnsky added that he didn’t know where the comment “playing chicken” originated. The last thing he remembered the day of the accident was leaving Petro Pumper. He noted that he didn’t testify at the trial, but he didn’t know why he hadn’t testified and wished he had.
Srnsky’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Scott Collins, had requested a downward dispositional departure or durational dispositional departure. He asked that Marben stay execution of any sentence. Collins requested a sentence between 24 and 36 months. He also asked for the statutory maximum in terms of probation. While making his request, Collins noted that Srnsky had to take evasive action to avoid Jacob Kasprowicz. He added that Srnsky’s last felony prior to this case was in 2007. The last gross misdemeanor was in 2010.
Steve Moeller, assistant Pennington County attorney, requested a sentence within the sentencing guidelines. With the severity of the offense and Srnsky’s criminal history score, Moeller said that would be between 58 and 81 months. Moeller requested 81 months, referring to the offense, Srnsky’s lack of remorse and his egregious driving conduct prior to the crash.
Besides noting the “playing chicken” comment, Moeller indicated that Srnsky was driving in excess of 60 mph prior to the crash. He noted that Srnsky has had multiple traffic citations and convictions, including two offenses in 2014.
Moeller said, as part of the pre-sentence investigation, Srnsky told a probation officer that he would only quit driving if his eyes were poked out. Moeller indicated that Srnsky said he was being made into an example and he was only in trouble due to bad luck.