MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An Orono man is charged in the crash that killed two young men.

Fifty-one-year-old James Blue faces four counts of criminal vehicular homicide. Blue posted a $500,000 bond before his first court hearing on Tuesday.

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Police say on the night of July 24, Blue drove at a speed of about 100 miles per hour. He struck several trees, killing his passengers, 24-year-old Sam Schuneman and 20-year-old Mack Motzko.

According to the criminal complaint, Blue was showing the victims his Bentley and took them for a ride. Prior to the crash, Blue held a party at his place. Witnesses saw him drinking alcohol and eating THC gummies. The BCA found his blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit.

The car suffered extensive damage, having uprooted a tree that was still on top of it when police arrived. Police found Schuneman deceased in the front passenger seat. Motzko was in the backseat and died later at the hospital as a result of his injuries.

Police found Blue about 10 feet in front of the car, having been ejected from the vehicle. He suffered injuries but was conscious when officers found him. The document says after the crash, Blue admitted to drinking and being guilty.

Criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino is not related to the case but is calling the criminal vehicular homicide charges unusual.

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“Mr. Blue is alleged to have driven extremely recklessly, basically endangering human life, which would fit the charge of murder in the third degree. However, he’s only being charged with criminal vehicular operation. It’s sort of a lighter charge for this kind of case,” explained Tamburino.

If found guilty of criminal vehicular homicide, Blue is looking at four years per victim, for a total of eight years.

Tamburino said if Blue pleads guilty, it would prevent the prosecutor from upping the charge to third-degree murder, which would be 25 years behind bars. He explained that when a person pleads guilty, “jeopardy” attaches and they cannot be convicted of any charges greater than the one they pled to.

Third-degree murder is the unintentional killing of another through acting extremely reckless without regards for human life.

“Allegedly driving 100 mph with marijuana, with some other type of controlled substances presumably. On a country road, that’s windy. Yes, that could easily fit murder in the third degree, why didn’t they charge it? I don’t know,” said Tamburino.

Prosecutors are allowed to amend charges almost up until trial. Blue is expected to be back in court Sept. 8.

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WCCO reached out to the victim’s attorney as well as Blue’s attorney and did not hear back.

Pafoua Yang