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Closing arguments scheduled in downtown hit-and-run trial

A last-minute attempt by the defense for acquittal on a third-degree murder charge was rejected Wednesday morning by an Olmsted County District Court judge as a 2010 fatal hit-and-run case headed toward closing arguments.

The attempt to dismiss the charge was made after attorneys on both sides rested. Closing arguments are this afternoon at 2 p.m.

Defense attorney Thomas Braun said 34-year-old Christopher Trautman of Oronoco should be acquitted of third-degree murder because evidence presented at trial only addressed allegations that Trautman was grossly negligent on Nov. 27, 2010, when 23-year-old Austin Melville was struck and killed on South Broadway.

The difference between those third-degree murder and criminal vehicular homicide — the lesser charge Braun said was more appropriate in Trautman's case — is significant, possibly tripling the presumptive prison sentence Trautman faces from 48 months to 150 months.

In the end, Judge Christina Stevens agreed with the prosecution that there was probable cause to charge Trautman with third-degree murder, saying evidence presented at trial was even more compelling that what was first presented in police reports that supported the charge being filed in the first place.


In addition to the collision that killed Melville, Trautman faces a string of criminal vehicular homicide charges for collisions that severely injured Christopher Glenski, Rebecca Noelle Dass, and Tum Chan on South Broadway on Nov. 27, 2010.

Trautman is accused of speeding while driving with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.21, which is more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit of 0.08.

Toxicology testing showed that he had marijuana and cocaine in his system, as well as a prescription drug that contained warnings about side effects including drowsiness and dizziness that can intensify when the drug is mixed with alchol.

Jury deliberations will begin Wednesday afternoon after closing arguments are finished.

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