MANKATO — Saying he would trade his life for the lives of his two victims “in a heartbeat,” Mark Chalin sobbed Monday as he begged a judge to not send him to prison for a 2011 crash that killed two women.
His plea for leniency was only one of many emotional moments during a sentencing hearing that ended with the mother of 23-year-old Amber Menezes, who was Chalin’s girlfriend and one of his victims, kneeling on the courtroom floor. She had just attempted to follow Chalin, 24, through a door that leads to the jail.
“Mark, Mark,” Michelle Scholl said as Chalin was led away by a bailiff. “You do good. Make the best of this.”
Then Scholl, Menezes’ mother, fell to the floor, pounded it with both hands and said, “Nobody wins.”
Assistant Blue Earth County Attorney Chris Rovney recommended a 58-month prison sentence for the Aug. 7, 2011, crash that also killed 35-year-old Jonna Martin of Lakefield.
Witnesses told investigators Chalin was driving recklessly on Highway 169 shortly before he hit Martin head-on while they were both traveling on Blue Earth County Road 90. Menezes was on Chalin’s lap and it appeared they had been having sex before Chalin veered into Martin’s lane and smashed into her car while she slowed and pulled to the shoulder.
Chalin’s attorney, Jacob Birkholz, asked District Court Judge Bradley Walker to issue a sentence below the 48 to 58 months recommended by sentencing guidelines. Birkholz said Chalin should receive 10 years of probation with the condition he serve one year in prison with work release privileges. That way he could start paying restitution through earnings from his minimum wage job at a fast-food restaurant, Birkholz said.
There were emotional appeals from both sides of the courtroom. Friends and family of the victims told Walker that Chalin needed to go to prison. Chris Menezes, who was married to Amber but separated from her at the time of the crash, listed several run-ins Chalin had with the law prior to being charged with two counts of vehicular homicide.