Public Safety

Mount Vernon woman pleads to lesser charges in 2017 fatality crash

One of her passengers and another driver killed

Brianna Stastny
Brianna Stastny

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Mount Vernon woman who sped into an oncoming car in 2017, killing two people, has pleaded to lesser charges after a judge ruled police didn’t have “reasonable grounds” to order a blood test that showed she had been using marijuana before the crash.

Brianna Stastny, 24, pleaded guilty last Thursday in Linn County District Court to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in prison.

About 11:26 p.m. on Sept. 29, 2017, while going north on Highway 151 near Wright Brothers Boulevard, according to a criminal complaint, Stastny attempted to pass a car and a bus. She was going about 81 mph when her car struck a vehicle headed south.

Both the driver of that car, Darla Moander, 43, of Cedar Rapids, and a passenger in Stastny’s car, Kaelonnie Moore, 22, of Cedar Rapids, died upon impact, the complaint showed.

Stastny originally was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while being under the influence of drugs and two counts of vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner.

But those charges were decreased after a judge granted a defense motion to toss a blood test that revealed marijuana in her system.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Mary Chicchelly ruled in February she couldn’t find that “reasonable grounds” existed for police to have the hospital test her blood or urine under “implied consent” — without a warrant — because they suspected she was driving under the influence.

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No field sobriety tests had been conducted, no alcohol containers were found at the scene and no signs of impairment such as odor of marijuana or alcohol, or Stastny having slurred speech, were noted, the ruling states.

During a hearing on suppressing the evidence, officers testified they couldn’t perform tests at the scene because she was injured, according to the ruling. Emergency personnel had moved her onto a backboard and placed a neck collar on her before officers arrived. One officer said Stastny had bloodshot and watery eyes, but that was consistent with her crying.

The officers said there was no other reason to explain Stastny’s decision to pass a bus and car in busy traffic that night, according to the ruling.

Officers noted that several witnesses said they couldn’t believe she attempted to pass two vehicles in the traffic.

According to the complaint, Stastny admitted at the time it was possible she smoked marijuana before the crash that night and that she frequently smoked the drug at that time.

An accident reconstruction report showed there was no evidence of Stastny braking at the time of impact, according to the complaint.

Judge Chicchelly, in her ruling, said the blood test could not be used at trial because she couldn’t conclude that implied consent provides an exception to the warrant requirement.

The ruling also meant the prosecution at trial could not use evidence of marijuana and drug paraphernalia found in Stastny’s purse.

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Chicchelly said officers didn’t have a warrant when they searched Stastny’s vehicle and her purse. Officers said Stastny asked them to get her purse from the vehicle, but there’s no record she gave officers permission to open and search it, the judge said.

At the time of sentencing, on Aug. 20, Stastny will be ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to each woman’s estate or heirs.

Stastny can ask for probation, and the prosecution will likely ask for prison time.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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