MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 29-year-old man was sentenced to a year in jail Friday morning for his role in a distracted driving death on Highway 36 last year.

Samuel Hicks had his eyes on his cellphone for eight seconds on February 27, 2018. He was driving a semi-trailer truck at 63 miles an hour when he slammed into Robert Bursik’s car.

Hicks told investigators he was using an app to look up information on a potential house for sale.

“Rob never made it to class that day” Jessica Bursik, the victim’s widow, said.

In a Washington County courtroom on Friday, the grieving wife recounted the horrors of the crash when she had to phone other family members. She then spoke of the disbelief at Hick’s gross negligence.

“The act of texting and driving is inherently a selfish thing, texting and driving a semi-truck is outrageous and should be sadly condemned by society,” Jessica Bursik said.

Hicks sat quietly with his defense attorney, Earl Gray, as other family members spoke of their grief. Older brother Paul Bursik told of the how Robert was deprived of sharing his son’s college graduation, birth of a first grandchild and his daughter’s wedding last summer.

“Jaycee got married last summer and she asked me to walk her down the aisle and dance with her in the place of Rob, in the father and daughter dance,” Paul Bursik said, choking back tears.

When he was asked if he had anything to say to the family, the 29-year old Hicks offered an apology.

“From the bottom of my heart I’d really like to say that I am sorry and I wished it had never happened,” he said.

Judge Greg Galler then issued his sentence according to terms of a plea agreement. Hicks will immediately begin serving 365 days in the Washington County Jail and receive a 48-month suspended sentence. He will also be on probation for 10 years and have his commercial driving privileges revoked.

As part of the probation, Hicks will agree to participate in anti-distracted driving campaigns with the Minnesota State Patrol.

“There’s nothing I can do to bring Mr. Bursik back and I don’t think any time would satisfy anybody,” prosecutor Siv Yurichuk explained after court recessed.

A sad, preventable case of distraction that so needlessly led to a Robert Bursik’s death.

Bill Hudson

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