The man charged this week following a reported carjacking and series of crashes in Minneapolis on Monday that left a pair of teen siblings seriously injured has a history of stayed and reduced sentences, including one that could have kept him incarcerated earlier this year.
For the second time in less than a month, a chaotic scene involving a carjacking and a series of crashes played out on Lake Street in Minneapolis. Police scanner incident pages on social media posted as the incident unfolded on Monday afternoon reporting that a vehicle had crashed into several other vehicles including a police vehicle and that pedestrians had been struck and injured.
According to the details laid out in a Hennepin County criminal complaint filed on Wednesday, Steven Djuan Ross used his head to break through the driver’s side window of a vehicle near East 26th Street and 17th Avenue South where the driver was still seated and proceeded to climb into the vehicle as the occupants exited in fear. There was a struggle for the keys, but Ross prevailed and fled the scene crashing into several other vehicles while doing so.
Ross fled in the vehicle at a high rate of speed and missed a turn at the intersection of East Lake Street and 17th Avenue South, sailed through a red light and slammed into two teens in the crosswalk, later identified as 14- and 19-year-old siblings Jacob and Cecilia Speranzella. The collision launched both victims several feet into the air with one hitting the window frame of a business and landing on the sidewalk unconscious, and the other victim launched at least fifteen feet through a glass window at the business landing inside the building.
Ross again attempted to flee nearly running over the unconscious victim on the sidewalk. As he fled eastbound on Lake Street, Ross struck a police squad car and eventually crashed into a pole near Lake Street and 20th Avenue South where the engine caught fire as responding officers pulled him from the vehicle.
One of the teen victims suffered a brain injury and required surgery and the other suffered several broken bones and lacerations. In a post-Miranda interview Ross admitted to using crack, marijuana and alcohol on the day of the incidents, and admitted to using his head to break the window of the vehicle he carjacked.
PRIOR CONVICTIONS, FEW CONSEQUENCES
Ross has nearly twenty prior criminal cases in Minnesota and although he received convictions in every single case listed, a check of court records shows that Ross received reduced or stayed sentences in a vast majority of the convictions.
In 2012 Ross was convicted on felony domestic assault by strangulation, a conviction which allows a sentence of up to three years. Ross was instead given a gross misdemeanor level sentence by Dakota County Judge Michael Sovis (who was in the midst of his own DWI case at the time and retired from the bench a few months later following conviction in that case), thereby triggering Ross’ conviction to be deemed a gross misdemeanor by state statute. Ross was ordered to serve only 120 days of a 365-day sentence and was given credit for 97 days already served and was placed on probation.
In the midst of that domestic assault case, Ross was charged in Dakota County with a new fifth-degree assault case. He pleaded guilty and was convicted and sentenced at the same time as the domestic assault case. Ross was sentenced to 90 days in jail and was given credit for 90 days already served in jail over the course of the case.
In 2015 Ross was convicted in Ramsey County on felony third-degree assault involving substantial bodily harm and sentenced to 28 months in prison. However, his sentence was stayed (felony sentence not executed) by Judge Jennifer L. Frisch. Ross was instead given credit for 21 days already served in jail and released on probation.
Ross’ most recent felony conviction was in February of this year on a narcotics case in Hennepin County. In that case, Ross was sentenced to 19 months in prison, which would have left him unavailable to commit the alleged carjacking last Monday that subsequently resulted in the serious injuries to victims. However, Ross’ felony sentence was stayed by Judge Marta M. Chou and he was alternatively sentenced to 30 days in jail followed by probation.
Ross has numerous other misdemeanor convictions interspersed in between his felony convictions for which he received stayed sentences or was sentenced to no time or reduced time on most.
Ross, 48, was charged on Wednesday with three felonies related to Monday’s incident: two counts of criminal vehicular operation – one resulting in great bodily harm and the other resulting substantial bodily harm and both involving gross negligence, and one count of simple robbery. The counts carry sentences of up to 5 years, 3 years and 10 years, respectively.
But even if Ross is convicted and sentenced to the maximum on all three counts, the sentences will likely be served concurrently (at the same time) under Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, which state that when an offender is convicted of multiple current offenses, or when there is a prior felony sentence that has not expired or been discharged, concurrent sentencing is presumptive.
Ross, of St. Paul, is currently being held in Hennepin County Jail on $250,000 bail and was granted a public defender during his initial court appearance. Ross is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Nov. 1.
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