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Man gets 20 years for murder after driving into Minneapolis protesters

31-year-old woman died after suffering severe head trauma

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A memorial for Deona Marie Erickson is set up at Lake Street and Girard Avenue in Uptown Minneapolis in 2021. Nicholas Kraus drove his vehicle into a protest, killing Erickson.
Matt Sepic / MPR News
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ST. PAUL — A Hennepin County judge sentenced a man to 20 years in prison Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, for intentionally driving his car into a woman who was involved in a public protest in Minneapolis.

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Nicholas Kraus
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

Nicholas Kraus pleaded guilty to the crime and apologized in court during the sentencing hearing to the family of the victim, Deona Marie Erickson, also known as Knajdek.

Last June, Erickson, 31, was with a group of people protesting the police shooting death of Winston Smith in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. She was a mother of two.

Kraus’ plea was for 17.5 to 21 years; the judge opted for the higher sentence partly because the action impacted others' First Amendment rights.

Kraus was intoxicated and attempted to jump his Jeep SUV over a vehicle that protesters parked to block traffic and protect them. The force of the collision pushed the car at a high speed — onlookers say 70 to 80 miles per hour — into Erickson and others nearby on Lake Street near Hennepin Avenue.

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She was pronounced dead a short time later at a hospital after suffering severe head trauma.

According to the criminal complaint, Kraus admitted that he did not attempt to brake. Kraus has multiple drunk driving convictions, including a felony DWI. He did not have a valid driver’s license at the time of the crash.

The defense said at the time that Kraus’ life was “spiraling out of control… and his actions were not politically-motivated.”

Kraus told Erickson’s family members it wasn’t intentional, yet “I deserve more than what I get” and “I deserve the top of the box.” He said he was sorry and that “it should have been me that died."

After the hearing, Erickson’s mother, Deb Kenney, said Kraus’ apology was hard to hear.

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

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Deb Kenney, mother of Deona Marie Erickson, speaks to the press Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis.
Nina Moini / MPR News

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