Judge orders defendant in fatal crash to report to jail on 2nd anniversary of crash

Published 5:24 pm Wednesday, August 17, 2022

A Freeborn County District Judge ordered the driver in the fatal crash near Glenville beach two years ago to move forward with his jail sentence after delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have not allowed him to serve his sentence on work release.

Dominik Boots-Ringoen

Dominik Boots-Ringoen, 20, was sentenced in December to 365 days in jail and up to 10 years of supervised probation tied to the crash on Aug. 27, 2020, that killed 17-year-old passenger James Joseph Amarosa III of Albert Lea and injured three others. 

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 2021 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.

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As part of his original sentence by now-retired District Court Judge Steve Schwab, the judge gave Boots-Ringoen credit for 107 days he already served of the sentence and granted him the ability to participate in the work release program for the remainder, which allows an inmate to leave the jail to work and then report back each night. He was originally set to report at the end of January, but the order stated that date could change depending on bed availability at the jail and work release. 

Boots-Ringoen’s lawyer in an online hearing Wednesday said at the time of the sentencing, the parties knew that the pandemic could be an issue and that because of that Schwab had worked flexibility into his order for the report date. The judge also approved allowing Boots-Ringoen to serve his probation in another county where he had moved. 

Boots-Ringoen said he had tried to set up Huber work release in both Freeborn County and in two other counties in the Twin Cities, but work release has not been available. 

Hamer said he did not think the sentence should be modified and that they should wait for work release to be available. He also brought up the possibility of electronic home monitoring as a practical option.

“We’ve all had to be mindful and change the way we do things. …” Hamer said. “We do the best we can, and Mr. Ringoen has done the best he can.” 

He said his client has a full-time job at Domino’s and has been making the restitution payments of $8.27 a week to the victim’s family, which is symbolic of the date of the crash. 

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said at this point he questioned whether it was even sensible to consider Huber release. He pointed out the payments Boots-Ringoen was ordered to make of $8.27 were to be made weekly, and Schwab had also ordered him to complete a financial affidavit to determine an additional amount of monthly restitution to be paid. 

Walker said since the hearing $448.10 had been paid, including six payments of $8.27 in March, three in April, six in May, three in June, three in July and two in August. Co-defendant Shelby Luv Watkins had paid a total of $200 toward his balance, and Boots-Ringoen had also made a payment of $82.70 in March.

He has been ordered to pay a total of $17,489. 

“It is a severe disappointment to us to see that so little is being paid in restitution,” Walker said, noting that if Boots-Ringoen was going to be released from jail he should be earning enough money to make restitution amounts that exceed $8.27 a week. 

He described work release as “just an excuse not to go to jail.” 

Hamer said it was a “gross mischaracterization” to say that his client was trying to avoid his sentence by working at Domino’s and said Boots-Ringoen has been working full-time and volunteering on the side. He said Boots-Ringoen every day also goes through “intensive personal therapy” to help him with his own grief and guilt tied to the crash. 

“It’s unfair to say that my client is trying to avoid the sentence,” Hamer said. 

District Court Judge Ross Leuning, who heard the case Wednesday, said while the case has been a heartbreaking case for everyone across the board, the pain and sorrow were a result of Boots-Ringoen’s poor decision making. 

Leuning said it was evident in his review of the case that all parties wanted to make sure Boots-Ringoen could be employed even while serving out the jail service so he could make restitution payments. He said while only $8.27 a week is not impressive, it is consistent with the minimum amount required of the order. 

The judge said the jail time was intended to be an immediate sanction to help him understand the consequences of his actions. 

He ordered Boots-Ringoen report to jail no later than 8 p.m. Aug. 27, the two-year anniversary of the crash. He can serve the term in Freeborn County or another county, what he estimated would be 135 days, accounting for good time.