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Duluth father receives probation for covering up son's drunk driving crash

DULUTH - A Duluth man who tried to help his son cover up a drunken-driving accident in which a young woman was seriously injured was sentenced Monday in St. Louis County District Court to probation and community service.

Daniel Wilczek, 51, pleaded guilty last month to a felony charge of aiding an offender. His 17-year-old son was driving drunk on June 4 when he drove his Chevy Blazer off the road and into a tree after a "senior kegger" celebrating Christopher Wilczek's graduation from Hermantown High School.

Christopher Wilczek's friend, Zadie Morgan, 18, suffered numerous injuries, including broken bones in her face, and she had teeth knocked out. She has undergone at least five surgeries since the accident.

Instead of calling 911 and seeking medical attention after the accident, Christopher Wilczek called his father, who came to the scene and gave Morgan a ride to her home.

At his sentencing, Daniel Wilczek admitted that he told his son to be less than forthright with law enforcement because he wanted to keep him out of trouble. He also said that he didn't realize the extent of the victim's injuries.

The defendant has no prior criminal record, and under Minnesota sentencing guidelines it was presumed he would receive a probationary sentence with conditions to be set by the court.

Under terms of a plea agreement, Judge Mark Munger sentenced Daniel Wilczek to four years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a

$1,000 fine.

The defendant also received a stay of imposition of sentence, which means that if he follows the conditions of his probation, his felony offense will be reduced to a misdemeanor and the probationary period could be limited to three years.

Wilczek declined an opportunity to address the court on Monday.

"We feel the sentence was fair given the circumstances of what really happened and not what was initially alleged to have happened," Duluth defense attorney Richard Holmstrom said. "We feel the sentence was fair, and we're satisfied with it."

Christopher Wilczek, now 18, pleaded guilty in August to criminal vehicular operation causing great bodily harm while under the influence of alcohol. He received "extended juvenile jurisdiction," where convicted felons younger than 18 at the time of their offense receive both a juvenile sentence and a stayed adult prison term. The sentence requires rehabilitative treatment while in detention and follow-up monitoring and care after release. An adult prison term awaits those who violate the terms of their juvenile sentence.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both Forum Communications Co. newspapers.

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