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  • Written Jun 23, 2010 12:57pm

    Mattson gets jail time, fine, required vision test for hitting blind man at busy Willmar intersection WILLMAR — Gary Lee Mattson, 56, of Willmar, was sentenced this morning to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a year of probation on a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for a blind person for a Nov. 16 incident in which he ran over a blind man at First Street South and 19th Avenue in Willmar.

    By: Gretchen Schlosser, West Central Tribune

    WILLMAR — Gary Lee Mattson, 56, of Willmar, was sentenced this morning to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine and a year of probation on a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for a blind person for a Nov. 16 incident in which he ran over a blind man at First Street South and 19th Avenue in Willmar.

    As part of his sentence, handed down by Judge Michael J. Thompson in Kandiyohi County District Court, Mattson was also ordered to take a vision test to determine if he has retinitis pigmentosa, pay $540 in restitution and attend a victim impact panel.

    Mattson was ordered to being serving 30 of the 90 days in jail on Monday. The remaining 60 days was stayed for one year.

    “It is unbelievable that someone would leave the scene of an accident such as this,” Thompson said before handing down the sentence. “We all make mistakes, but we have to be accountable for those mistakes.”

    Mattson’s attorney, Daniel Eller, argued that Mattson was concerned about the victim, Thomas Sykora, 58, of Willmar, in the days after the crash, but did not contact Sykora to apologize because he was advised not to by his insurance company.

    Police reports in the court file indicate Mattson spoke briefly to a sheriff’s deputy who had stopped for the accident and then left the scene. He was not located by law enforcement until several hours after the crash.

    “He is sorry for what occurred. He is remorseful for what happened,” Eller said.

    Mattson did not apologize to Sykora during the hearing, only noting that he had been told not to contact Sykora by the insurance company. He said he has no lack of remorse for his actions.

    The incident left Sykora with 22 broken ribs, plus a broken scapula — or shoulder blade — and a broken ankle that required surgery. He was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and was later airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital where he was hospitalized for about a month.

    Sykora’s daughter, Kelley Sykora, read her father’s victim impact statement to the court. In the statement, he recounted his pain and suffering from the time of the crash, through the hospitalization and through the recovery process.

    “The impact of this offense has been huge to me, my life and my family,” the impact statement read. “It has taken away a lot of my independence and mobility.”

    Sykora stated that he suffered emotional harm and discovered “terrifying panic” when he first attempted to go for a walk with his guide dog Nectar this spring and heard a car coming from behind him. He is seeking counseling, he said.

    Sykora has filed a civil lawsuit against Mattson. According to the suit, Sykora is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000 and claims he suffered severe and life-threatening injuries due to Mattson’s negligence. During the sentencing hearing, Sykora said he has hospital bills of more than $185,000.

    Read more about the sentencing hearing in Thursday’s West Central Tribune.

     

     

     

  • Written May 27, 2010 12:12pm

    Article from the Willmar newspaper on 5/25/2010

    Willmar man enters plea for hitting blind man at busy intersection WILLMAR — Gary Lee Mattson, 56, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for a blind person for a Nov. 16 incident in which a blind man was run over at the intersection of First Street South and 19th Avenue in Willmar.

    By: Gretchen Schlosser, West Central Tribune

    WILLMAR — Gary Lee Mattson, 56, of Willmar, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for a blind person for a Nov. 16 incident in which a blind man was run over at the intersection of First Street South and 19th Avenue in Willmar.

    As part of a plea agreement reached in Kandiyohi County District Court, two additional misdemeanor charges for failure to stop for a traffic signal and failure to give information after a traffic accident will be dismissed.

    Mattson will be sentenced June 23.

    Both Mattson and his attorney Daniel Eller declined to comment after the plea hearing before Judge Michael J. Thompson. The case was scheduled for a jury trial to begin Thursday.

    The incident left Thomas Sykora, 58, of Willmar, with numerous broken ribs, plus a broken scapula — or shoulder blade — and a broken ankle that required surgery.

    Sykora was taken to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar and was later airlifted to St. Cloud Hospital. He was hospitalized for a month, according to his caringbridge.org Web page.

    Sykora has filed a civil lawsuit against Mattson. A hearing morning in that case is scheduled today before Judge Thompson. According to the suit, Sykora is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000 and claims he suffered severe and life-threatening injuries due to Mattson’s negligence.

    Sykora was interviewed by the Tribune a week after the incident and said he and his guide dog Nectar waited one cycle of the traffic controls at the intersection before attempting to cross 19th Avenue on the west side of First Street. Sykora, who lost his sight about 20 years ago to retinitis pigmentosa, said he was wearing a bright yellow jacket with strips of reflective tape sewn onto the fabric and his walking cane with him.

    According to the reports accompanying the citation, a Kandiyohi County sheriff’s deputy, who recognized Mattson as the driver of a pickup stopped at the intersection, was first on the scene. A witness said he saw the pickup bounce up and down when it ran over Sykora, then stop on First Street. The witness said the driver got out of the vehicle, talked to the deputy and then drove away.

    Police officers later located Mattson, who denied running over Sykora or striking anything with his vehicle. Some three hours after the incident, Mattson submitted a breath test and blood test. Both were negative for alcohol.

     

  • Written May 27, 2010 12:10pm

    Article from the local news station, KSAX:

    5/25/2010
    Willmar Man Pleads Guilty to Charge after Blind Man is Run Over
    A blind man hit by a car in a crosswalk and run over by both front and back tires isn't happy with the driver's penalty.

    Tom Sykora, a 58-year-old Willmar man said he suffered 22 broken ribs, a broken shoulder blade, a broken ankle and severe aches and pains.

    "I heard what sounded like a car accident. There was a loud bang and then I realized it was me that got hit and I got sent sprawling into the ground," Sykora said.

    Gary Mattson, a dentist in Willmar, pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of failure to stop for a blind person but two other misdemeanor charges, including a hit and run - personal injury accident charge, were dropped.

    Sykora said Mattson did speak with authorities briefly but didn't admit any wrongdoing at the time. 

    According to City Attorney Richard Ronning, the officer may not have known Mattson's role in the incident and told Mattson he was free to leave.

    According to Kandiyohi court records, Mattson later told authorities he didn't know if he had run anyone over or struck anything. His blood alcohol content was tested and results were negative.

    Mattson now faces a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Sykora said that's not enough.

    "Nothing will be the same in my life. That just seems like an extremely light sentence. For the magnitude of what was done to me, it does definitely seem like a slap on the wrist," Sykora said.

    "I had no problem crossing (intersections before the incident), but now when I hear sounds like [a] truck passing, I get spooked."

    Mattson will be sentenced June 23.

    Sykora has a benefit fund set up and donations can be made by contacting the Lake Region Bank of Willmar at (320) 235-5900.

    Written for the web by Joe Nelson.

    jonelson@ksax.com

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St. Cloud Hospital
1406 Sixth Avenue North
St. Cloud, MN 56303
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