Driver in fatal crash sentenced to jail time, probation

Published 3:35 pm Monday, December 27, 2021

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Teenager to write weekly check to victim’s family 

The 19-year-old driver charged in the fatal crash last year on the gravel road near Glenville beach on Monday was sentenced to 365 days in jail and up to 10 years of supervised probation for his role in the crash.

Dominik Boots-Ringoen

Dominik Boots-Ringoen, who now lives in Dakota County, was also sentenced to a stayed 57 months in prison, meaning he will not have to serve time in prison unless he violates his probation.  

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Boots-Ringoen pleaded guilty in July to one count of felony criminal vehicular homicide, which involved operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner, tied to the Aug. 27, 2020, crash that killed 17-year-old passenger James Joseph Amarosa III of Albert Lea and severely injured Cameron Michael Cunningham of Twin Lakes. Passengers Shelby Watkins and Chase Garza were also injured.

Boots-Ringoen, who didn’t have a valid license and had a pending DWI charge at the time, had been drinking prior to getting behind the wheel of the car. He admitted in July to losing control of the car while drifting on the road, a technique in which the driver intentionally oversteers to cause a loss of traction and causes the vehicle to drift sideways. The car was heading southbound on 795th Avenue when it went into the ditch and struck a tree.

Freeborn County District Court Judge Steve Schwab said when he took Boots-Ringoen’s guilty plea earlier this year, his initial reaction was that the teenager would be going to prison, but he said his job requires him to look at factors such as remorse and amenability to probation before issuing a sentence. 

The plea agreement, reached by both the prosecution and the defense, had called for a downward dispositional departure from normal state sentencing guidelines, which changes the sentence from a presumptive commitment to prison to instead serving a probationary sentence with stayed prison time. Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said Amarosa’s family supported the agreement.

The judge said the Minnesota Department of Corrections agent who interviewed Boots-Ringoen found the teenager expressed remorse for his actions that resulted in the death of Amarosa and that mitigating circumstances would support the agreement’s recommendations. 

Boots-Ringoen also completed the Minnesota Teen Challenge program, a treatment program for people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, which Schwab said takes a lot of work to finish. The judge said he has sent many to the program, and not many have made it through. 

Boots-Ringoen in court Monday said since the crash he has been doing his best to change his lifestyle. He said Minnesota Teen Challenge helped him realize he needed to change, and he is also now working. 

He apologized to Amarosa’s family and said as a result of his actions the world lost one of the best people. 

John Hamer, his lawyer, said his client and Amarosa had hung out almost every day for two years prior to the crash. 

He said the night of the crash Boots-Ringoen had a couple sips of vodka — which he shouldn’t have had — though he noted it wasn’t his client’s intention to drive that day. 

Boots-Ringoen and the other friends were picked up by his girlfriend at the time, Shelby Watkins, who later pulled over and asked him to drive because he was the most sober one in the vehicle, Hamer said. 

“I promise you if he could take it back, he’d do anything to go back,” Hamer said, noting the two have talked about how Boots-Ringoen can honor Amarosa’s memory by living the best life he can. 

In addition to the jail time, Schwab approved a series of conditions that will be part of Boots-Ringoen’s probation. 

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said the conditions of Boots-Ringoen’s probation were designed to remind the teenager of his actions and in some way pay the debt he owes to the Amarosa family. 

As part of the $17,489 in restitution Schwab ordered, the teenager is required to write a check to Amarosa’s family for $8.27 every week, something Walker said is symbolic of the day of the crash and will force him to remember what he did that day. He will also have to provide a financial affidavit to determine an additional monthly payment toward the restitution. 

Boots-Ringoen will be required to complete 40 hours per week of Sentence to Service for an indeterminate amount of time, which can be reduced hour-for-hour for full-time employment to a minimum of eight hours weekly. The service will be spent on opportunities that focus on the treatment, rehabilitation or assistance of victims recovering from traumatic injury resulting from serious crashes, assaults, illness disease or disability. 

Boots-Ringoen will report to jail on Jan. 31 and will be allowed to participate in the work release program. He will receive credit for 107 days already spent in jail. 

The sentence comes after Schwab in October sentenced Watkins to 10 days in jail and up to 10 years of probation for allowing Boots-Ringoen to drive her vehicle. Watkins also admitted to hanging out of the passenger window prior to the crash.

“This was a difficult matter, and I hope we did the right thing here,” Schwab said. 

Several of Amarosa’s family members who spoke at the hearing said they will remember their loved one as a kind, caring and polite person with a contagious laugh and smile. 

Some said they suffer from guilt because they are alive while Amarosa is not and some said family members are even going through therapy to help them handle their grief. 

Julie Goskeson, Amarosa’s aunt, said their whole family was changed from her nephew’s death, which she said was because of poor judgment the driver of the car made in driving under the influence. 

She said the holidays are different without him there and there is an emptiness in the room where he used to be. 

She said she thought Boots-Ringoen needed to be held accountable — had he not gotten behind the wheel that day, her nephew would still be there. 

Kris Amarosa, Amarosa’s mother, said her son was a gift to her and her husband because they were told they could not have children. 

“I still cannot believe he is gone forever,” she said. 

In a separate case tied to a driving under the influence charge from a few weeks prior to the crash, Boots-Ringoen was sentenced to a separate stayed 365-day jail sentence and four years of probation.

He is also required to attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving impact panel and pay a total of $405 in fines.