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Murder trial to begin Monday in Dinkytown hit-and-run

This news story was published on February 27, 2012.
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Abby Simons, Star Tribune, Minneapolis –

After a week of jury selection, opening arguments are scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of a man accused of using his vehicle to run down a group of University of Minnesota students in Dinkytown last spring, killing one of them.

Timothy Bakdash, 29, will face 12 felony counts in Hennepin County District Court. The charges, including first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, stem from an April 15 crash that killed student Benjamin Van Handel, 23, and left another student severely injured. Bakdash was arrested April 20, hours after Van Handel, an economics major from Appleton, Wis., died of brain injuries.

According to the charges, Bakdash was angry after arguing at the Library Bar with a group of students. It’s alleged that he got into his car after the bar closed at about 2 a.m., drove the wrong way down SE. 5th Street and plowed into a group of students, including Van Handel.

Also struck were 21-year-olds Katelynn Hanson and Sarah Bagley. Bagley suffered severe leg injuries. In a case of mistaken identity, Bakdash never argued with Van Handel or others in the group that night.

Bakdash’s mother, Diane Bakdash, was initially accused of helping him hide the car, but prosecutors later dropped the charges against her.

Bakdash’s attorney, Joseph Tamburino, is expected to use a voluntary intoxication defense. Under Minnesota law, being under the influence of drugs or alcohol does not make an act less criminal, but it can be used to determine whether a defendant had the presence of mind to have the intent and premeditation to kill.

Prosecutors must prove that Bakdash intended and planned to run down the students for a jury to convict him of first-degree murder. He also could be convicted of lesser counts, including second-degree murder or criminal vehicular homicide. Those crimes do not require proof of premeditation and intent for a conviction.

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