FARGO — A 23-year-old Fargo man has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for killing his brother and a North Dakota State University student while driving drunk.
Henry Zweh Kulor and his relatives repeatedly apologized Monday, May 10, in Cass County District Court to the family of 22-year-old Pierce James Kvien, of Roseau, Minn.
Kvien was driving a motorcycle around 10:20 p.m. Aug. 15 at 14th Street North and Eighth Avenue North in Fargo when Kulor ran a stop sign and crashed his vehicle into the NDSU student's bike.
Kulor's brother, 25-year-old Wein Zelee of Fargo, was also in the vehicle, reportedly hanging out the window and encouraging Kulor to go faster. Zelee died. Kulor was injured.
“I’m deeply, truly sorry,” Kulor said, adding he is going to have to live with what happened for the rest of his life.
Judge Susan Bailey, who at times appeared to be holding back tears, sentenced Kulor to 11 years in prison for two felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Kulor faced up to 20 years in prison for each charge and pleaded guilty to both in February.
Kulor, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.159% when arrested by police, was driving 84 mph in a 20 mph zone at the time of the crash, Cass County State’s Attorney SheraLynn Ternes said. Zelee’s BAC was over 0.44%, Ternes said. The legal limit to drive is 0.08%.
Kulor had driven to the Empire Tavern in downtown Fargo to get a pack of cigarettes, Ternes said. Meanwhile, Kvien was test-driving a motorcycle.
The crash was not an accident but the result of a series of bad choices, the prosecutor said.
Kvien’s family and friends described him as an intelligent student who had a passion for fixing anything with an engine. He was on track to graduate from NDSU with a degree in mechanical engineering when he died.
NDSU awarded Kvien with a posthumous degree, but the day that was reserved for celebration was marred with sadness and a trip to his gravesite, said his sister, Kalleen Kvien.
“This is just one of the many monumental moments that was taken from him due to a careless drunk driver,” she said. “Pierce still had so much more life to experience.”
Michelle Moren, a Kvien family friend and former prosecutor for Roseau County, showed a photo of Pierce Kvien after running a 5K race, as well as a pair of shorts he wore during the race. She described the NDSU student “as someone who was “scary smart” and gave it all.
Kulor showed “absolute reckless disregard for anyone” when he drove the night of Kvien and Zelee’s deaths, Moren said. She called for him to face the maximum penalty possible to keep the public safe.
“Nothing can bring Pierce back,” Moren said. “His family will never be made whole.”
Prosecutors asked Kulor to be sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison — 10 for the death of Kvien and four more for the death of Zelee.
In arguing for six years in prison, Kulor’s attorney, Lucas Wynne, said Kulor made terrible decisions but didn’t mean to kill anyone.
Several of Kulor’s family members asked the Kvien family not only to forgive Kulor but his relatives. His father, Urius Sohn, begged for the Kviens to find mercy in their hearts.
“Judge Susan Bailey, I want you to look down in your heart and find somewhere for you to forgive my brother and let him come home,” Kulor’s 9-year-old brother, Abraham Sohn, said as he cried in court.
Bailey said she tried to show Kulor some mercy in sentencing while still holding him accountable for his decisions.