Calling for wholesale change in societal views on the public health epidemic of distracted driving, a Le Sueur County judge sentenced a New Prague woman to community service, probation and four days in jail in the death a year ago of a 79-year-old school bus driver.
“You are a gifted teacher, use that gift,” Judge Mark Vandelist said to Susan Ann Russo, seated at the defendant’s table in a quiet courtroom filled with a couple dozen friends and family members of both the late Joseph Tikalsky and Russo.
The judge encouraged Russo because he hoped she would become a force for change after the “absolute tragic consequence” of her distracted driving — likely while texting.
Russo, 48, struck and killed Tikalsky on Oct. 28 as he collected his morning newspaper from a box on the road in front of his home. Tikalsky was wearing a reflective jacket at the time and was on break from his work as a school bus driver, a job he didn’t need but continued because he loved being with kids.