No felony charges for driver who checked phone before hitting construction worker

An East Bethel woman who admitted to looking down at her phone before she hit a construction worker last year won't be facing any felony charges, according to the Anoka County Attorney.

Nearly a year to the day after her life was shattered, former construction worker Laura Berg is still angry.

“I’ve never felt this way about other people, but I hate her,” said Berg. “I look at the scars every day and I see them and I hate her.”

To this day Laura suffers from several head, limb and internal injuries from a preventable crash.

“The thing that gets me is that she hasn’t even tried to apologize,” said Berg.

It was July 31, 2017 when Berg was at work, holding a “stop/slow” sign at the construction site near 7th Street and 237th Avenue NE in East Bethel, when 20-year-old Jordan Paulus, nearly killed her.

“And at this point I’m like, ‘May God forgive you because I can’t!’” said Berg.

According to the reconstruction report, Paulus told investigators at the time of the crash she looked down at a notification on her phone. By the time Paulus looked up, traffic stopped in front of her, so to avoid hitting the cars she swerved onto the shoulder and crashed into Berg, landing the mother of six in a coma for two months. 

After a month of decision-making, Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo declined to press charges against Paulus.

“We do not feel we could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was driving in a grossly negligent manner,” said Palumbo.

Palumbo says because Paulus didn’t lose control of her car, wasn’t speeding, or under the influence – she won’t be charged with a felony. 

“The only contributing factor we have is [Paulus’] failure to face forward at the time of this accident,” said Palumbo.

The decision, to Berg, comes as insult to injury.

“I was like, ‘Are you related to her? What’s going on? Is it because I’m Mexican?’ She should be charged!” said Berg.

With yet another serious surgery later this month, Berg hopes she makes it – if only to speak out and help protect other construction workers.

“In other states there’s signs saying if you hit a construction worker, this is how much you’re going to get charged, and this is how many years you’re going to get,” said Berg. “So, something has to change here.”

The East Bethel city attorney could still decide to charge Paulus with reckless driving.

According to the Department of Public Safety between 2007 and 2016, there have been 94 deaths and 229 serious injuries at construction zones. Those numbers include drivers, passengers and workers. All the more reason Berg says, she's compelled to take action.