FARGO — A Dilworth, Minn., woman was found guilty Monday, Nov. 16, of hitting a Fargo chef with her vehicle and leaving him with a serious brain injury.
Cass County Judge John Irby ordered Pryscilla Shantyl Littleswallow, 32, to serve 60 days in jail for a misdemeanor count of aggravated reckless driving. She has five days credit for time served, and she may serve her sentence through the electronic home monitoring program.
Littleswallow was escorted out of the courtroom to serve her sentence following an afternoon trial that spanned three hours. Irby determined without a jury there was enough evidence to prove Littleswallow acted recklessly when she hit Joe Swegarden with her car around 2 a.m. Aug. 12, 2018, in downtown Fargo.
“No sentence is going to restore Mr. Swegarden to his health,” Irby said.
Several witnesses testified that they saw Swegarden and a group of people walking in a crosswalk at Sixth Avenue North and Roberts Street as Littleswallow waited. They said she inched up to the crosswalk and honked at the group.
Swegarden then threw his hands up, and witnesses said Littleswallow accelerated into him. Swegarden went under the vehicle’s front bumper, witnesses said. Then he was dragged as Littleswallow backed up.
Witnesses also said she got out of the vehicle, said it wasn’t her fault, then drove away. The crash left Swegarden unconscious, with severe bleeding and a brain injury that prosecutors said still impacts his life today.
Littleswallow testified that Swegarden approached her vehicle and pointed at her after she honked her horn. Suggesting she was afraid, she said she tried to drive to the right to go around Swegarden.
She said she didn’t realize she hit him.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt him,” she said as she cried in court.
Littleswallow was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, officers said.
Prosecutor Ryan Younggren said Littleswallow’s story was inconsistent with three witnesses who said Swegarden never left the crosswalk. They also claimed she “gunned it.”
“Isn’t what you are really concerned about here is that you got caught?” Younggren asked, which Littleswallow denied.
Witnesses and Littleswallow also noted a man was in the vehicle with her, but there was a dispute about whether he fled the scene when she exited the vehicle or if he stayed in.
Attempts to subpoena the man for trial were unsuccessful, defense attorney Mark Beauchene said.
Littleswallow fled the scene in her vehicle but stopped minutes later to call 911, Beauchene said. She cooperated with officers and told them what happened, he said.
“My client caused this accident,” Beauchene said, but added she didn’t do so in a reckless manner.
When asked why she fled, Littleswallow claimed people at the scene were trying to grab and attack her.
Irby said what matters is what happened when Swegarden was hit, not how Littleswallow acted later.
Swegarden did not testify because he was involved in a vehicle crash last week, Younggren said. The prosecutor said the brain injury caused in 2018 may have played a role in the most recent crash.
Swegarden was charged Thursday with driving under the influence. He had a blood alcohol content of 0.235% when he crashed into another vehicle, then a tree, Wednesday night in the 500 block of 10th Street South. The legal limit to drive is .08%
He submitted an impact statement, though it was not open to the public.