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Texting, Driving Focus Of O'Neal Case

March 4, 2014, 9:55 PM by Jared Ransom

Texting, Driving Focus Of O'Neal Case
Brent O'Neal


Tuesday's ruling is a harsh reminder of what could happen if you decide to text and drive. A fatal crash has Brent O'Neal now serving nine years in prison.

"When you look at what happened here, the speed he was traveling down Minnesota Ave., the fact that he's engaged in distracted driving and turning into oncoming traffic at 5:45 in the afternoon on Minnesota Ave., I don't think it takes a crystal ball to foresee in all probability what the result is going to be," Deputy Minnehaha County State's Attorney Randy Sample said.

Philip Sorensen's father was in court Tuesday afternoon to make it clear he knows exactly what caused the crash that killed his son.

"Wheel falls off, door falls off, you get out and you run around the car and you take off running. You were texting, right? Where was your phone? Right there, wasn't it?" Terry Sorensen said.

The Sorensen family also said during a meeting with O'Neal, he wasn't accepting responsibility for texting and driving and the role he played in Philip's death. Deputy Minnehaha County Public Defender Victoria Reker disagrees.

"He's pled guilty to this charge, your honor, that's the ultimate acceptance of guilt. Brent has always wanted to plead guilty to these charges, and he's never denied that he caused Philip's death," Reker said.

Prosecutors hope this case can be a benchmark for any similar cases that involve texting and driving.

"The fact of the matter is that if people out there choose to drive in the fashion that this defendant did and they end up killing someone, there is a serious consequence," Sample said.

The sentence for O'Neil won't bring Philip back, but the family is accepting the result and are ready to move on.

"For him to do all the different aspects like that, that's all we could ask for. There are no winners," Terry said.

If anything positive is to come from this case, it is the fact that Sioux Falls now has a strict texting and driving ban. In September 2012, a city ordinance banning the action was put into effect, only months after Sorensen's death.

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