Minnesota mom calls out light punishment of vehicular assault and homicide offenses

For Kelly, the slap on the wrist given to the man who ran over her daughter is not justice, but instead, "justice theater."

Colleen Kelly’s daughter Anya Magnuson five days after being hit in October 2021. (Colleen Kelly/Twitter)

A Minnesota mother has striven to draw attention to the lax punishments meted out to perpetrators of vehicular-related crimes after her daughter suffered life-altering injuries at the hands of a reckless driver.

Colleen Kelly’s daughter Anya Magnuson was crossing the street at Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis in October 2021 when she was struck by an unlicensed driver who had run a red light and did not brake. The collision threw Magnuson roughly 40 feet and left her with “fractures of her pelvis, femur, both tibias, one fibula and her right eye socket. She had skull and sacrum fractures” that required multiple surgeries to repair, Kelly wrote in an article for Southwest Voices.

Beyond broken bones, Magnuson suffered a severe traumatic brain injury, and, as a result, was unable to continue working for the University of Minnesota as the School of Public Health’s communications coordinator. Complicating matters, Anya had been previously diagnosed with a rare form of cancer which recurred and resulted in mutations after her accident, aggravating her already extensive rehabilitation process.

The driver responsible for Magnuson’s injuries “had a long list of previous citations, moving violations and tickets for driving with a suspended license,” Kelly wrote. Nonetheless, “because the driver had not fled, was not drunk, and was not ‘egregiously’ speeding (defined as 20+ mph over limit), I was told by police investigating the crash that felony charges were out of the picture,” she said. The driver ultimately pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor criminal vehicular operation causing bodily harm and was sentenced to 45 days in prison, 45 days of electronic monitoring, and two years of probation, according to Kelly’s article. He was also ordered to pay token restitution, of which “he hasn’t paid a penny.”

“The brain injury rendered her disabled, a life on the cusp of beginning forever changed,” Kelly said in a recent update on her daughter. “She had to move to handicapped accessible apartment and needed 24/7 care.”

Kelly has cataloged scores of incidents in which drivers guilty of vehicular-related assaults and killings were given only light sentences. These included Derrick Thompson, son of former Rep. John Thompson, who has been charged with 10 counts of vehicular homicide for his involvement in a June 2023 crash that killed five young women. Thompson had previously been convicted in a 2018 hit and run incident in Montecito, Calif., that put a woman in a coma but was released in January 2023 after serving three years of an eight-year sentence. His driver’s license was also reinstated less than two weeks before the fatal Minnesota crash.

Kelly noted in her June 17 update that she was informed the man who hit her daughter will not have his probation revoked “despite not meeting many of the the terms of the probation.”

“For a start, at the [Minnesota Legislature], we need to change: laughably low sentencing guidelines for vehicular crimes, remove eligibility for automatic expungement for CRIMINAL vehicular misdemeanors that hurt people, [and] inability to revoke probation,” she wrote. 

Kelly said she reached out to Minnesota legislators via email and phone regarding their consideration of automatic expungements for misdemeanor convictions, sending them a lengthy letter concerning her daughter’s experiences. She said she did not receive a response.

For Kelly, the slap on the wrist given to the man who ran over her daughter is not justice, but instead, “justice theater.”


Evan Poellinger

Evan Poellinger, the Alpha News Summer 2024 Journalism Fellow, is a native Minnesotan with a lifelong passion for history and politics. He previously worked as a journalism intern with the American Spectator and an investigative journalism fellow with the Media Research Center. He is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross with degrees in political science and history.