Nicholas Kraus convicted of murdering Deona Knajdek

Nicholas Kraus at his verdict

A Minnesota man who killed a protester against Black Lives Matter and gun violence in the summer of 2021 was sentenced to two decades in state prison on Wednesday afternoon.

Nicholas KrausThe 36-year-old drove his Jeep into a parked car in June 2021. He was extremely intoxicated at the time and attempted to jump over the second vehicle. The parked car crashed into a crowd of protesters. Deona Knajdeka 31-year-old, aka Deona-Marie EricksonShe suffered fatal head trauma. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at a nearby hospital. Three others were injured in the incident.

The defendant was a drunk driver at the time of the accident and did not even have a valid driver’s license.

“I apologize to the families,” Kraus said during his sentencing hearing, according to a court report from the St. Paul-based court ABC subsidiary KSTP. “I don’t expect them to forgive me.”

The victim’s mother Deb Kenneysaid Kraus’ apology aloud Minnesota Public Radio News.

“Apologies are paper thin,” she said. “Sometimes thin as tissue paper.”

end of October this yearDefendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder by negligence and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

The plea came just as the trial was about to begin. He was originally charged with first-degree second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon.

Kraus had previously admitted his guilt to law enforcement immediately after the fatal incident.

A probable cause statement from his original charges notes:

The defendant stated that he saw the barricade, that it was a car and felt he had to get over it. The defendant admitted that there were a number of people in the area, including a few people near the barricade. The defendant stated that he accelerated to try to jump over the barricade and admitted that he did not try to brake. The defendant admitted that he floored the accelerator because he thought it would help him get over the barricade.

Police never believed the incident was politically motivated.

The defense has repeated this, saying the incident happened because the defendant’s life was “getting out of control”.

“It’s never easy for someone in the position you’re in to really understand what you’ve done,” he says Paul Scoggin said during the sentencing hearing in comments reported by KSTP.

Sentencing guidelines recommended the defendant receive a prison sentence of 17.5 to 21 years.

The judge said he went on the higher end of the sentencing guidelines because, while the violence may not have been political, it still had a chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech.

“I deserve more than what I get,” Kraus said, according to MPR News. “I deserve the top of the box. I should have died.”

The underlying protest in which Knajdek died erupted after the US Marshals Service shot dead a black man in Minneapolis on June 3, 2021. The authorities tried to arrest him Winston Boogie Smith Jr., 32, with warrant out as they claim he shot her. A woman who was with Smith allegedly said She has never seen Smith with a gun.

Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.

[Image via screengrab/WSTP]

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