Lawyer of teenage driver in fatal crash asks that some counts be tried separately

Published 5:58 am Thursday, June 3, 2021

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The lawyer for the Albert Lea teenager charged in the August 2020 crash that killed a teenager and seriously injured another on the road near the Glenville beach is asking that two of his client’s charges be tried separately.

Dominik Boots-Ringoen

Dominik Nikko Boots-Ringoen, 19, faces eight counts tied to the Aug. 27, 2020, crash, including criminal vehicular homicide and criminal vehicular operation, underage drinking and driving, and driving after revocation.

John Hamer, Boots-Ringoen’s lawyer, requested Wednesday to sever the underage drinking and driving after revocation charges from the rest of the counts and try them separately. He argued that keeping the charges together ran the risk of prejudice or a jury misunderstanding evidence and what led to the crash.

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Hamer said Boots-Ringoen’s blood-alcohol levels were .03, and deputies did not smell alcohol or see a need to conduct field sobriety tests at the crash site. He also questioned whether keeping the driving after revocation charge with the other counts could be prejudicial about whether his client’s driving conduct was at a criminal level versus a negligent level.

The criminal vehicular homicide and operation charges require the prosecution prove Boots-Ringoen acted in a “negligent” or “grossly negligent” manner when operating the car that day.

Boots-Ringoen was out on conditions from a separate DWI case earlier that month and had a revoked license when the crash occurred.

Court documents state right before the crash Boots-Ringoen was drifting on the road, a technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers to cause a loss of traction, causing a vehicle to drift sideways. The car was heading southbound on 795th Avenue when he reportedly lost control of the car and struck a tree.

The crash killed 17-year-old passenger James Joseph Amarosa III and severely injured Cameron Michael Cunningham. Shelby Watkins and another passenger were also injured.

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker argued against trying the underage drinking and driving after revocation charges separately from the rest of the charges and said they were relevant to show that Boots-Ringoen was grossly negligent when he drove the car that day.

Walker said Boots-Ringoen lacked any care regarding the safety of the people in the vehicle.

“This is a case where I will prove there is a lack of scant care,” Walker said. “This is extreme negligence.”

The prosecutor said if a stunt driver was going to do this, that person wouldn’t be able to have any alcohol in their system and would need a license. He also referenced Watkins, the front seat passenger, who was captured on video hanging outside the car as Boots-Ringoen drifted on the road.

Watkins, of Alden, also faces charges of aiding and abetting criminal vehicular homicide and aiding and abetting criminal vehicular operation, both felonies.

Freeborn County court records state Watkins reportedly allowed Boots-Ringoen to drive her 2002 Ford Taurus the night of the crash, even though she knew he didn’t have a valid license and that he had a previous DWI charge. 

Freeborn County District Court Judge Steve Schwab said he would take the matter under advisement.

Boots-Ringoen is next slated to appear in court on the charges June 25.