North Dakota Man Gets 90 Days for Fatal “Selfie” Crash

On the stand, the Portland, ND triathlete’s family members told the court that North Dakota claims to want to crack down on distracted driving.

But this case, in which Matthew Kelley Strand struck a deal that exchanged his felony negligent homicide charge for one of  misdemeanor aggravated reckless driving, Knutson’s family believes to be a miscarriage of justice.

“Every August 15th, I’ll think, it’s been so many years since she was killed. I’ll think of it every holiday, so many years that she’s not there,” said Lee Karaim, one of Knutson’s brothers.

Karaim is one of seven siblings who never really got to say goodbye.

He told the court Wednesday at Strand’s plea hearing the funeral director told them her body was too mangled by the crash for them to view.

Lisa Knutson trained for 20 years for her triathlons by biking on Highway 200 outside of Finley  with never a scratch, her brother says, until that day in August 2014.

That’s when her husband, unsuspecting, was driving the same road when he came upon the crime scene, with his wife’s body lying in the road.

“He was so distraught he had to be helped by paramedics at the scene. Whenever he drives home now, for the rest of his life, he’ll have to drive by the spot she was killed,” Karaim said, adding that while Strand stood by the crime scene waiting for law enforcement to arrive, he deleted 30 photos on his cell phone.

Court documents alleged that Strand used his phone within a minute before calling police to report the accident.

Attorneys say he was also dealing with a disturbance in the back seat of his car with his young children at the time.

Judge Steven Marquart addressed the family during sentencing, telling them that while they might not feel it made much of a difference if Strand had killed Knutson while driving under the influence, it was a critical distinction in the way North Dakota law regarded his crime.

“It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole,” said Strand’s defense attorney Bruce Quick, pointing out social media use had changed the landscape of the law dramatically. “These are terrible accidents…I’m not even sure this should be a felony.”

Prosecutors say they cut Matthew Strand a misdemeanor deal in part because they couldn’t quite prove he was using his phone at the time of impact.

Steele County State’s Attorney Charlie Stock said even if the case went to trial, and the jury convicted Strand, it was possible a judge would have sentenced him to the same time 90 days behind bars and 90 days’ home monitoring the plea deal called for, as part of his plea to this and an additional unrelated, subsequent drunk driving guilty plea.

Court records also show Strand has been charged since then with drunk driving in Fargo and with speeding in Traill County.

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