‘Careless Driving???’ C’mon!

Artwork by Clea FelienBY ED FELIEN

The Minneapolis city attorney, Susan Segal, has decided to prosecute Jeffrey Rice for Careless Driving for deliberately driving his car into a crowd of demonstrators on Nov. 25.
Careless Driving seems to suggest a driver was distracted by a cell phone or not paying attention.  But Jeffrey Rice knew what he was doing.  Videos of the incident show that he drove up to the demonstration and saw traffic driving around a white van to the left of the demonstration, and he drove deliberately to the right and into the crowd.  His intent was clear.  He intended to harm the demonstrators.  He has admitted in the police report that he saw the demonstrators and drove into them.
The county attorney considered only the charge of leaving the scene of an accident.  They did not consider the more obvious felony charge of aggravated assault before they turned the case over to the city attorney for the possibility of misdemeanor charges.
We have argued that the city attorney should at least have charged Rice with assault in the fifth degree:  “Whoever does any of the following commits an assault and is guilty of a misdemeanor: 1) commits an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death; or 2) intentionally inflicts or attempts to inflict bodily harm upon another.”
Everybody wants to win.  Nobody wants to lose.  That’s why people don’t take risks and bet on a sure thing.  Segal knows it would be difficult to prove intent on Rice’s part to deliberately harm the demonstrators.  Rice’s attorney could claim he was confused.  He didn’t know what he was doing.
There are many unanswered questions.  What was his state of mind?  Did he know about the demonstration?  Was he listening to a right-wing radio station that was describing the demonstration as an assault on the police?  Where did he work and where does he live?  Was Lake Street the most direct route from work to his home?  Did he go out of his way with malice aforethought to harm the demonstrators?
If the city attorney had been vigilant in protecting the rights of citizens to peacefully petition their government for a redress of grievances, then she would have prosecuted criminal attempts to destroy that right to the fullest extent of the law.  But that would have meant a long trial where she would have had to prove political intent.  She chose the easy way out and charged him with Careless Driving.

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