Man pleads guilty to leading a car chase

Published 10:29am Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Albert Lea man pleaded guilty Tuesday in Freeborn County District Court to leading police on a high-speed chase last September.

Thomas Eugene Vaale, 29, is expected to be sentenced to probation but will be required to remain in jail until his Oct. 17 sentencing, said Assistant Freeborn County Attorney David Walker.

Thomas Vaale
Thomas Vaale

Vaale has been in the Freeborn County jail, in the hospital or in a state facility for mental health reasons since the Sept. 17, 2012, incident, Walker said.

According to court documents, Vaale stole a 2005 Lincoln LS from 1117 Foothills Circle. The owner was outside in the back of his house smoking a cigarette when he heard someone start his car and drive off.

The owner reported the theft to law enforcement, and three minutes later, a Freeborn County sheriff’s deputy found the car near the intersection of Freeborn County roads 22 and 25, two miles north of Albert Lea.

The deputy attempted to pull over the vehicle, but Vaale took off at a high rate of speed, at points driving into the ditch and running through stops signs, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph. The chase continued west on County 25, until a deputy put out stop sticks at the intersection of County 25 and Minnesota Highway 13 in Manchester. After hitting the sticks, the car went airborne, rolled and struck a telephone pole, coming to rest on its roof.

Vaale was airlifted by a Mayo One helicopter to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester for injuries sustained in the crash.

The plea agreement calls for Vaale to pay restitution of more than $10,000 for damages sustained in the crash.

Vaale had been charged with one count of fleeing police in a motor vehicle and with stealing an automobile. The charge of stealing is expected to be dismissed as part of the plea bargain.