Meeker County seeks aggravated sentencing against man charged in crash that killed two

LITCHFIELD -- The Meeker County Attorney's Office intends to seek aggravated sentencing against a Paynesville driver if he is convicted in connection with an August crash that left two teens dead.Benjamin Lee Tate, 28, was charged Aug. 27 with tw...

Benjamin Tate
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LITCHFIELD - The Meeker County Attorney’s Office intends to seek aggravated sentencing against a Paynesville driver if he is convicted in connection with an August crash that left two teens dead.
Benjamin Lee Tate, 28, was charged Aug. 27 with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one count each of criminal vehicular operation and second-degree driving while impaired for his role in the deaths of Travis Monson, 19, and Zachary Rohbeck, 16, both of Watkins. Kathleen Prestidge, 16, of Montrose, was injured in the crash.
Tate was driving a 1998 Chevrolet pickup southbound on Highway 24 and crashed into a northbound 2001 Chevrolet Lumina carrying the three teens. The collision occurred in the northbound lane, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
State troopers on the scene of the crash Aug. 25 said Tate had bloodshot, watery eyes and smelled strongly of alcohol, according to a criminal complaint on the charges.
A preliminary breath test showed Tate had a blood alcohol level above 0.08 percent, the legal driving limit in Minnesota. Tate appeared Monday in Meeker County District Court.
In its Dec. 31 motion seeking more severe sentencing than guidelines would typically suggest, the prosecution writes that the case is more serious than “typical” because two victims were killed and one was injured in the motor vehicle crash.
The prosecution also says Tate did not call emergency services immediately after the crash. The motion argues he needs long-term chemical dependency treatment, but has been unsuccessful in completing treatment after past liquor offenses.
“The defendant shows defiance to following the law and is a danger to the community,” the prosecution wrote.
Tate and his public defender Curtis Reese responded to the motion in separate affidavits March 11 and 15.
Because Tate’s vehicle was overturned in the crash, Reese says, Tate was unable to find his phone immediately afterward to call emergency responders. Reese asserts that Tate would not have been able to save either of the victims.
“No lay-person such as defendant would be able to perform any life-saving medical procedure to prevent death to both victims of the crash,” Reese wrote in his affidavit.
Reese says Tate has shown “remorse and contrition” for the crash, but has been unable to contact the witnesses or the family members of Monson and Rohbeck due to court proceedings.
Tate responded in an affidavit that he “was never required” to complete chemical or alcohol dependency treatment programs for any court case, but has completed any probation requirements he was sentenced to in previous cases.
“The defiance which the state points out in its motion did not occur and is not a component of (Tate)’s personality,” the affidavit states.
Tate writes he “is certainly willing to enter and participate in a residential or inpatient program for substance use disorder” and “would like the opportunity to do so.”
The aggravated sentencing notice was taken under advisement Monday and Judge Stephanie Beckman is seeking briefs from the prosecution and defense, due March 30 and April 6, respectively. The next court date in the case is set for May 23.


Paynesville man to appear in court today for drunken driving crash that killed two teens

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