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Trial In Fatal ‘U’ Hit-And-Run Begins

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Lawyers made their opening statements Monday morning in the Timothy Bakdash case — the trial of a deadly hit and run that happened in Dinkytown.

Twenty-nine-year-old Bakdash faces first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder charges.

Police say he purposely ran over three University of Minnesota students last April.

Benjamin Van Handel, 23, was killed. Katelynn Hanson and Sarah Bagley were also struck. Bagley suffered severe leg injuries.

Before opening statements began, the prosecuting attorney was searching for more tissues to hand out to the family and friends of the victims.

For the man on trial, this isn’t about whether or not he hit the students, it’s if he meant to.

The prosecution says he targeted the group. The defense says is was an accident.

The incident all stemmed from an argument at the Library Bar. Police say at bar close, Bakdash got into a verbal argument with a group of guys after a night of drinking in Uptown. That’s when Bakdash allegedly drove the wrong way down 5th Street Southeast and plowed into the students.

The prosecution said he drove them down in retaliation. They say there was a witness in the car with Bakdash who heard him say, “they deserved it.”

The defense paints a very different picture of that night. They say Bakdash was intoxicated and it was all an accident.

Bakdash says he drank 15 to 20 alcoholic drinks and smoked marijuana before getting behind the wheel. That would put him at an estimated 0.3 blood alcohol concentration, more than three times the legal limit.

Bakdash says he drove on the sidewalk trying to scare the man he was in the fight with. That’s when he accidentally hit the man in the ankle and all of the sudden, there was a woman on top of his car.

He said he panicked, fled and hit what he thought was a pole. That ended up being Van Handel, who later died, and another woman.

Investigators say it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, as police say Bakdash never argued with Van Handel or the others in his group.

“Whenever there’s such heightened attention in the media about a serious case like this, we really have to wait and see and have patience,” said Bakdash’s attorney, Joseph Tamburino. “Obviously, it’s a very serious case and a very tragic case.”

Bakdash was arrested five days after the hit-and-run.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said he’s going to ask the grand jury to indict Bakdash on first-degree murder charges.

“We think, if the evidence continues to lead in the direction it is, that it’s first-degree pre-med. That is life without parole,” he said.

Bakdash’s own attorneys are arguing he was more drunk than prosecutors say he was. The prosecutors say this is first-degree murder and that he intended to do it.

His defense says yes, he did it, but he was too drunk and high for this to be premeditated.

Bakdash’s mother was initially accused of helping him hide the car used in the attack. Prosecutors later dropped those charges.

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