Judge Sentences Teen for Deadly Crash, Victim’s Family Says Decision is ‘Racist’

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Family members are accusing a Minnehaha County judge of racism, after he sentenced the teenager who admitted to killing their son. 17-year-old Alex Lingor gets probation and will serve 65 days, part of which will be in juvenile detention and then possibly the county jail after he turns 18. Lingor pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the car crash that killed 15-year-old Kareem Cisse in 2017.

Judge Bradley Zell also sentenced Lingor to nearly 30 years in prison, but suspended that. That means, as of right now, Lingor will not serve time in prison. That’s what led Cisse’s friends and family to storm out of the courtroom. 

It was an emotional day in court for Cisse’s mother, Nikki Arrington, and her family.  They told Lingor how this crash affected them.  The hearing lasted more than four hours, and eventually Cisse’s loved ones went into the hallway. 

“All because of the color of Kareem’s skin!” Nikki Arrington, Kareem Cisse’s mother, said. 

For a little more than a year, Cisse’s family and friends have been searching for justice. They say they didn’t find it in court. 

“Racist is right. Racist all the way!” Arrington said. 

Multiple deputies watched the group gather outside of the courtroom. At times, people quietly comforted each other. In other moments, they loudly expressed grief and anger. 

“Alex murdered my son! He murdered my son!” Arrington said. 

In February 2017, police arrested Lingor. He was involved in a drug rip turned high-speed chase near the Midco Aquatic Center. Lingor says he was trying to sell marijuana for $25, and chased after the the other car when Cisse’s group didn’t pay up. According to court papers, Lingor tapped the other car with his bumper twice. A crash reconstruction shows both drivers then lost control of their vehicles and side swiped each other, which sent Cisse’s car into a tree. The crash killed him and injured his brother. Prosecutors say Lingor texted Cisse “nice try,” drove away, and didn’t report the crash. In court, Lingor apologized for causing Cisse’s death.

“He was my fire. That’s the best way to describe him. He was my fire and I’ve lost my fire,” Arrington said. 

Lingor initially faced second degree murder, but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, aggravated assault, and marijuana distribution to a minor. 

“I’m at a loss and shock. I expected him to actually go to prison. He accepted his fate,” Ziggy Arrington said. 

Judge Zell declined an on-camera interview, but sat down with us to talk about his decision. I asked him about the family’s accusations he’s a racist and that his decision was racist. He says he has no response to that, but says he decides each sentence by looking at the facts and circumstances of each case. He says race was not a factor in the crime and it was not a factor in the sentencing portion.  

Zell says he based his sentence on a few factors. He says though Lingor caused Cisse’s death, prosecution couldn’t prove it was intentional. He adds both groups that night were breaking the law because of the drug deal, and both groups participated in the chase. Zell also believes Lingor is better served by probation and counseling, rather than prison. He also cited Supreme Court decisions in which justices say juveniles have better chances of rehabilitation. 

Judge Zell also says both Lingor and Cisse have been in trouble with the law before. Lingor’s was for drugs, but he has no record of violent crime. Zell says Cisse just got out of juvenile probation, committed a crime, and then had a warrant. Because he’s a juvenile, that record is sealed. Nikki Arrington disputed her son had a warrant. 

Lingor is currently in custody. Once he serves his 65 days, he will be on probation for 15 years. With good behavior, he could be off in half that time. Zell says if he has any felonies, he’ll go back behind bars and face a judge again. 

Cisse’s says her son made a mistake trying to buy marijuana, but says he didn’t deserve to die. She also says she disagrees with Tuesday’s sentencing. 

“I think it would’ve been different if it was reversed. If it would’ve been Alex that died and Kareem would’ve lived, I think Kareem would’ve gotten 30 to 60 years,” Nikki Arrington said. 



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