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Man gets 30 days jail after killing another while texting and driving

FARGO — A man who pleaded guilty to killing another man while texting while driving more than 90 mph in the car behind the other man will embark on a public speaking campaign about the dangers of distracted driving as part of a plea agreement.

The deal was hammered out between Cass County prosecutors and Mark Friese, the defense attorney for Nicholas Scott Milbrandt, 21, of Kindred, before Milbrandt’s sentencing Tuesday in Cass County District Court.

Under the agreement, Milbrandt will serve 30 days in jail.

After that, he begins two years of supervised probation, during which he’ll work with probation officers and the North Dakota Department of Transportation to give public presentations to schools and other groups about the dangers of texting while driving.

The 100-hour community service requirement may also involve Milbrandt making an appearance in some sort of televised public service announcement, said Cass County prosecutor Tanya Johnson Martinez.

She said that in crafting the plea deal, she took into account the effect of the issue of texting and driving in general, as well as Milbrandt’s character, including his lack of prior criminal history.

“We think the 30 days will be an adequate shock value,” Johnson Martinez said.

Court documents state that Milbrandt was texting while driving more than 90 mph on Interstate 94 near West Fargo last summer when he rear-ended the vehicle in front of him, driven by 61-year-old Royce Rodacker of Casselton.

“Never did I think I would get a call like I did from my dad on Aug. 1,” Rodacker’s granddaughter Erika Rodacker said from the witness stand.

“Because of another person’s reckless actions on the road, I’ll never get to hug him again,” she said.

Milbrandt also spoke in court, saying he prayed for forgiveness.

“I took away someone’s family member. … I am so sorry for what I’ve done,” he said.

Friese said his client had struggled with the death of his victim, and was willing to do anything he could to spread the message about texting and driving.

“No matter what he does, he can’t take away their pain,” Friese said. “I can tell you my own (driving) habits have changed markedly.”

He also pointed out that the 30-day jail term was greater than other sentences leveled at defendants who were convicted in fatal crashes in which there was no intent.

The plea deal also called for prosecutors to drop a Class C felony charge of reckless endangerment against Milbrandt, who instead pleaded guilty to a single count of negligent homicide.