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Powerball winner convicted in fatal traffic crash

Insider BuzzInsider Buzz: Powerball winner convicted in fatal traffic crash

Three years ago, Victoria Zell bantered her way through a remarkable news conference as her husband vowed to split his Powerball jackpot with her, even though they were getting divorced at the time.

A different Victoria Zell was in Hennepin County District Court on Monday. With trembling hands her only visible reaction, Zell, 45, was convicted in a fatal high-speed collision that happened on a Minneapolis street corner on a Sunday afternoon in July, seconds after she had vowed to show two fellow passengers and drinking buddies how to "drive crazy."

The crash killed Joshua Schmidt, 30, of Stillwater, and left Amity Dimock, 31, of Minneapolis, with a severe spinal-cord injury. Both had been riding with Zell in her sport-utility vehicle when it blew two stop signs, reached speeds of between 59 and 71 miles per hour, and collided with a small pickup truck at the corner of  E. 46th St. and 17th Av. S. The SUV spun, rolled over onto the driver's side and crashed roof-first into a tree. The driver of the pickup wasn't injured.

"This was a woman who had everything," said County Attorney Amy Klobuchar. "She squandered it away on drugs and drinking, and somebody was killed.

"This just goes to show you winning the Powerball doesn't guarantee you happiness."

Zell was found guilty of four counts of criminal vehicular homicide and four counts of criminal vehicular operation. The jury also authorized Judge John Holahan to impose a sentence more severe than recommended by state guidelines.

Prosecutors are asking Holahan to sentence Zell to eight years in prison, double the standard. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 22. The case hinged on whether Zell, a former surgical trauma nurse, had been driving or had been riding in the back seat at the time of the accident.

Prosecutors Mark Chasteen and Fred Karasov leaned heavily on evidence of blond hair in a cracked spot on the windshield where their expert witness said the driver's head would have hit it. Their witnesses contended that Zell, who is blond, hit the windshield in the collision with the pickup truck and was thrown out the open sunroof after the vehicle hit the tree. They said Schmidt, who had a shaved head, had been thrown from the back seat to the front, where he was found dead.

An expert prosecution witness also testified that the person in the least-damaged part of Zell's vehicle would have been the least injured. That was the driver's side. "The only person who could walk away was the only person who did," Chasteen said in his closing argument.

The prosecution's key witness was Dimock, who is undergoing therapy for paralysis in her legs and testified in a wheelchair. She told the jury that Zell, who was also her landlady, had taken the wheel of the vehicle after the group had stopped at a convenience store, so she could show the others how to "drive crazy."

Zell's attorney, Earl Gray, hammered at Dimock for her history of drug use and the fact that she is suing Zell for $2.7 million.

Gray had hung Zell's defense on the idea that Schmidt, not Zell, had been driving. Gray asserted that Zell had been in the back seat, not wearing a seat belt, but was thrown into the windshield and then out of the vehicle after it collided with the pickup truck, but before it rolled onto its side and into the tree.

A nearby resident saw Zell walking away from the accident. She was found later several blocks away, near her home, unconscious and with a broken shoulder. "The person that committed this crime died in that accident," Gray said in his final argument to the jury.  After Monday's verdict, he said he believed there was plenty of reason to doubt the evidence against Zell.

"This is a classic example of how the American justice system doesn't always work," he said.

Zell had been drinking with Schmidt and Dimock at a bar in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis on the afternoon of the crash; all three were found to have cocaine and methamphetamines in their blood in addition to alcohol.

On Monday, prosecutors asked jurors to authorize a more severe sentence for Zell by arguing that she had placed people other than just Schimidt and Dimock at risk, that she had tried to blame others and that she had knowingly failed to assist the injured. The jury agreed with the first two points.

Schmidt's aunt, Connie Spaise, said Monday that if Zell had not tried to pin the blame on Schmidt, "the family would have forgiven her."

"This verdict isn't going to bring back Joshua," she said. "But it made Victoria Zell responsible for her actions. Justice prevailed."

Zell turned up in the public spotlight in December 2001, when her husband, Jeff Holmberg, said on television that he would split his $10.9 million Powerball jackpot with her even though the couple were in the process of a divorce. The issue went to court, and the final settlement has not been made public.

In the months between the accident and trial, Zell was charged with methamphetamine possession twice, including once for having the drug in her purse as she was checking into the county jail for having violated terms of her release on bail.

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19 comments. Last comment 12 years ago by CASH Only.
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LOTTOMIKE's avatar - cash money.jpg
Tennessee
United States
Member #7853
October 15, 2004
11338 Posts
Offline
Posted: March 16, 2005, 4:19 pm - IP Logged

can we trade powerball and get mega millions in tennessee.lol

    MillionsWanted's avatar - 24Qa6LT

    Norway
    Member #9517
    December 10, 2004
    1272 Posts
    Online
    Posted: March 16, 2005, 5:14 pm - IP Logged

    It seems to be that if you have luck in one area of your life, you are almost guaranteed to be struck by bad luck in other areas of your life.

      MADDOG10's avatar - smoke
      Beautiful Florida
      United States
      Member #5709
      July 18, 2004
      20108 Posts
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      Posted: March 16, 2005, 5:45 pm - IP Logged

       it really goes to show you that, " what goes around, will always come back around". but it's a shame the loss of a life, and the loss of mobility had to be a part of it... 

                                                   

                                                     "  When Injustice Becomes Law, Resistance Becomes Duty "

        Avatar
        Milwaukee, WI
        United States
        Member #3131
        December 27, 2003
        665 Posts
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        Posted: March 16, 2005, 9:32 pm - IP Logged
        Being on the border between Wis and Illinois I can play both, although I play both, I prefer Powerball, thought there really isn't much difference...



        I find the state lotteries much better, finding Illinois lotto the best....



        MarkP



        Quote: Originally posted by LOTTOMIKE on March 16, 2005

        can we trade powerball and get mega millions in tennessee.lol




          dvdiva's avatar - 8ball

          United States
          Member #2338
          September 17, 2003
          2063 Posts
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          Posted: March 16, 2005, 10:28 pm - IP Logged

          Just proves that morons who win the lottery are still morons.

            Tx_Mega_Player's avatar - spider
            BIG D Texas
            United States
            Member #2539
            October 16, 2003
            148 Posts
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            Posted: March 16, 2005, 10:35 pm - IP Logged
            Quote: Originally posted by MillionsWanted on March 16, 2005


            It seems to be that if you have luck in one area of your life, you are almost guaranteed to be struck by bad luck in other areas of your life.


            I'm not sure if "choosing" to get drunk, and "choosing" to use/abuse drugs, and "choosing" to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence, and "choosing" to run stop signs should be considered as being struck by bad luck.  I think this woman has just secured the #2 spot on the "Powerball Hall of Shame". Good old jack, of course, holds the #1 spot. Maybe these two should hookup!!! 
              MillionsWanted's avatar - 24Qa6LT

              Norway
              Member #9517
              December 10, 2004
              1272 Posts
              Online
              Posted: March 17, 2005, 12:45 pm - IP Logged
              Quote: Originally posted by Tx_Mega_Player on March 16, 2005

              Quote: Originally posted by MillionsWanted on March 16, 2005

              It seems to be that if you have luck in one area of your life, you are almost guaranteed to be struck by bad luck in other areas of your life.




              I'm not sure if "choosing" to get drunk, and "choosing" to use/abuse drugs, and "choosing" to get behind the wheel of a vehicle under the influence, and "choosing" to run stop signs should be considered as being struck by bad luck.  I think this woman has just secured the #2 spot on the "Powerball Hall of Shame". Good old jack, of course, holds the #1 spot. Maybe these two should hookup!!! 






              Even if they "choose" to get drunk and us/abuse drugs, it is the circumstances that makes everything happen. Ending up with a lot of money, many winners may get in touch with a lot of questionable persons who want a piece of the cake. They might get invited to parties where drugs are being abused etc.



              But of course some people are just stupid anyway.
                Maverick's avatar - yinyang
                USA
                United States
                Member #8242
                October 29, 2004
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                Posted: March 17, 2005, 1:11 pm - IP Logged

                Yea I saw this in the startribune. Zell = azzhole.

                  LOTTOMIKE's avatar - cash money.jpg
                  Tennessee
                  United States
                  Member #7853
                  October 15, 2004
                  11338 Posts
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                  Posted: March 17, 2005, 8:11 pm - IP Logged

                  powerball seems cursed,lol

                    Littleoldlady's avatar - basket
                    Clarksville
                    United States
                    Member #487
                    July 15, 2002
                    17638 Posts
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                    Posted: March 17, 2005, 9:32 pm - IP Logged

                    It's not Powerball, it is just plain ignorant people doing what they normally would do except when they have money, they make the news. 

                    If you know your number is going to hit, have patience and then KILL IT!

                    You never know when you will get another hit.

                      Avatar
                      USA
                      United States
                      Member #1849
                      July 15, 2003
                      265 Posts
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                      Posted: March 17, 2005, 9:38 pm - IP Logged

                      Why is it, that the common thread with all of these Lotto stories is drugs or booze. Let us pray, fi any of us ever win we do no such things. I think I would not drink at all if I won. I don't do drugs, never have, I wonder if these people started drugs out of bordem because they have nothing to work for or they were always into drugs. It would be nice to see some real history with these peole, are these just drunsk with alot of money or everyday people like whose wealth corrupted them? Interesting thoughts.

                        Tx_Mega_Player's avatar - spider
                        BIG D Texas
                        United States
                        Member #2539
                        October 16, 2003
                        148 Posts
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                        Posted: March 17, 2005, 10:00 pm - IP Logged



                        Even if they "choose" to get drunk and us/abuse drugs, it is the circumstances that makes everything happen. Ending up with a lot of money, many winners may get in touch with a lot of questionable persons who want a piece of the cake. They might get invited to parties where drugs are being abused etc.

                        But of course some people are just stupid anyway.


                        I respectfully disagree. To say that it is the circumstance that makes things happen is the say that humans do not have free will. When I go to parties where drinks are being served, I always choose to have a beer, and then I choose to have a 2nd beer. I then will usually choose against having a 3rd beer if I have to drive home. And when (not if, but when) I win the lottery, I will still stop after two beers - unless, of course,  I'm in a limo that nite. But the truth is that winning the big one will not add or subtract from your IQ. To quote dvdiva, "a moron that wins the lottery is still a moron". Amen!!

                          United States
                          Member #5387
                          July 2, 2004
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                          Posted: March 17, 2005, 10:50 pm - IP Logged

                          She's being sued but i wonder if there is any money left. she split 10 million dollars with her ex so that means she got 5 million after taxes i would amagine she got 3 million with her drug use and all most of that money is probably spent.

                            Avatar
                            USA
                            United States
                            Member #1849
                            July 15, 2003
                            265 Posts
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                            Posted: March 17, 2005, 10:55 pm - IP Logged

                            I don't think we should be to hard on them. I think that sum of money has the potentail to change us all.