The Minneapolis man fleeing police who crashed into a playground and seriously injured two young siblings entered a surprise guilty plea Wednesday and agreed to a harsher penalty.
Kabaar W. Powell Jr., 27, pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to two felonies. One was for fleeing police and causing serious bodily harm to 2-year-old Kayden Peltier. The other was for fleeing and causing substantial bodily harm to his 3-year-old sibling. He had faced five charges.
Powell wasn’t sentenced, but as part of his plea, he agreed that his crimes merited a harsher sentence than usual. Under regular circumstances, the two charges would call for probation. With the harsher penalty, Powell is expected to receive just under three years in prison.
In the courtroom, the children’s parents, Kyle and Nicolle Peltier, sat holding hands throughout the half-hour session in front of Judge Shereen Askalani. At one point, a sheriff’s deputy walked over and handed Nicolle Peltier a box of tissues.
The prosecutor said the family was “devastated” by the crimes and “frustrated at the lack of severity” of the sentence. Sentencing was postponed in part because the plea deal came up suddenly and family members wanted time to gather their thoughts before making victim-impact statements. Sentencing is set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 16.
In the crash, Kayden Peltier was most seriously injured, and his parents don’t know when he will be able to walk again. He suffered pelvic and cervical spine fractures, lost his spleen and had bleeding on his brain. Two of his siblings who also were struck were treated and released from the hospital.
As Powell prepared to enter his plea, his lawyer Paula Brummel said to him, “You told me that you just wanted to plead guilty and take responsibility for what happened, is that right?”
Powell said, “Yes.”
“You’re very well aware of who these children were even if you don’t know them,” she stated to Powell, who answered, “Yes.”
He said little else throughout the court session other than saying “guilty” twice as the clerk read the charges. His hands were clasped behind his back, and he did not look out into the sparse courtroom audience.
If the case had gone to trial, a jury would have had to agree unanimously to give Powell a sentence harsher than probation. The factors favoring a longer sentence include that Powell led police on a high-speed chase through a residential area before crashing through a fence and injuring the children in front of their father and siblings — all while driving after his license had been revoked. Brummel said she and Powell had seen and read news coverage about the family.
Powell will be allowed to address the court at his sentencing.
The chase began after the State Patrol tried to stop Powell on Interstate 94 near Dowling Avenue in north Minneapolis on June 11. Instead, he fled, blowing through 22 stop signs before crashing through a fence at the Jenny Lind Elementary School playground, where Kyle Peltier was playing with his seven children.
Powell’s speed topped 80 miles per hour, ending only when his SUV struck the kids. The Peltiers have signaled their intent to sue the State Patrol.
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson