Texting and DUI Case Takes Strange Twist

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Texting and driving do not mix. Drinking and driving do not mix. Combining texting and drinking while driving can lead to disaster.

A University of Madison-Wisconsin student thought that the assistant dean was being compassionate when he reached out to her following an accident that claimed the life of the student’s mother.

Megan Mengelt’s mother was killed in an accident involving a drunken driver who was also texting at the time of the accident. As she continued to meet with the assistant dean of the College of Letters and Science to discuss her grief, she had no idea that Tori Richardson was hiding something.

Tori Richardson never mentioned the fact that he was the one texting the driver, Lutheran bishop Bruce Burnside.

This lapse of judgment led Mengelt to file a lawsuit in April in Dane County Circuit Court against Richardson.

During the afternoon of April 7, 2013, Maureen Mengelt was running near her home in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. This is when Burnside, who was on the way to deliver a sermon, struck Mengelt, killing her. Burnside’s blood-alcohol level was 0.128.

While driving, Burnside was exchanging flirtatious texts with Richardson. Richard made two attempts to determine if Burnside was on the road as the two texted.

“You will need to be scolded if this is the case,” said a text from Richardson.

Richardson learned of the accident on the news. Four days later, he sent an email to Mengelt offering condolences and whatever assistance she needed.

After receiving police reports identifying Richardson as the person Burnside was texting, Mengelt suffered severe emotional distress, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit further alleges that Richardson used the relationship between himself and Mengelt to obtain information about the ongoing criminal trial against Burnside. He also sought information about the wrongful death lawsuit the family planned.

By law, the state will defend Richardson in the lawsuit. He received a 30-day suspension from the university and is under extra supervision as he continues to advise students.

Burnside pleaded guilty to drunk driving and killing Maureen Mengelt. He is serving a 10-year sentence.

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