Driver gets 25-day jail sentence in foreign student death

Published 4:08 pm Saturday, November 9, 2013

ST. PAUL — A Minnesota woman has been sentenced to 25 days in jail in a traffic accident that killed a Macalester College exchange student who had just arrived from France.

Danielle Keller, 28, of St. Paul, also must pay a $150 fine and will be on probation for a year.

Keller was accused of striking Cleo Thiberge with an SUV while the 19-year-old woman was walking in a crosswalk in August 2012.

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Thiberge had been in St. Paul about a day when the accident happened. She died a few days later.

Keller was charged with careless driving, a misdemeanor. She was sentenced Oct. 28 after entering an Alford plea in which she did not admit guilt but agreed there was enough evidence to convict her.

Keller can serve the 25-day sentence with home detention or a work program.

Thiberge was crossing the street with the light at the intersection when she was run over by Keller, who was making a right turn, according to the complaint. Keller told police that Thiberge “wasn’t crossing the street” when the light changed to green and she began her turn, but an investigation showed Thiberge was in a marked crosswalk, the complaint said.

Prosecutors wanted Keller to serve a 90-day sentence.

“This was a profoundly disappointing outcome for our office,” St. Paul City Attorney Sara Grewing said.

Keller had previous convictions of careless driving, going 99 mph in a 70-mph zone, driving after revocation and driving after suspension, according to court records.

But her attorney, John Westrick, said those convictions occurred several years ago, dating back to 2004. He said Keller “feels terrible” about the accident.

But “she was not careless to a degree that’s criminally negligent,” Westrick said. “Sometimes it’s just an accident.”