Harter pleads guilty; pays $210 in fines after fatal accident

A University of South Dakota student involved in a fatal traffic accident near Vermillion in September plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges Friday and paid fines of $210.

On Oct. 15, Clay County State's Attorney Teddi Gertsma charged Alyxandra Harter, 20, of Omaha, NE, with careless driving and driving on the wrong side of the road. Both charges are Class 2 misdemeanors that carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

Harter was fined $105 on each count.

At approximately 11:35 p.m. Sept. 17, Harter, a junior at USD, was traveling westbound in the eastbound passing lane of Highway 50 when her vehicle struck a car head-on being driven by Elizabeth Lias, 21, of Sioux Falls.

Lias, a senior at USD who was lawfully traveling eastbound, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Harter was taken to Sanford Vermillion Hospital and later flown to Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls.

Investigators determined that alcohol wasn't a factor in the accident.

"She (Harter) just simply got in the wrong lane, and drove in the wrong lane," Gertsma told the Plain Talk on Oct. 15.

The state's attorney confirmed that Harter is diabetic. "But as far as I can tell, that has nothing to do with any of the criminal charges," she said.

Because the two charges are misdemeanors, the case went through magistrate court rather than circuit court. Harter was scheduled to make her first court appearance Nov. 18 but was free to enter a plea before that time.

She didn't appear in the Clay County Courthouse. Harter entered her plea and mailed the fine, which arrived Friday in the clerk's office.

Clerk of Courts Robin Iverson is also a magistrate court judge who typically handles traffic offenses.

"Robin is considered a magistrate court judge," Gertsma said Oct. 15, "although she does her work from the clerk of courts office. She can take pleas on the Class 2s (misdemeanors)."

Had Harter pleaded not guilty, she would have been scheduled for a trial before Magistrate Judge Tami Bern.

Lias was a USD senior majoring in international studies. She was also a member of Kappa Alpha Theta and involved in the Political Science League.

Lias left Vermillion late Sept. 17 to drive to Sioux Falls to meet her brother at her family's home in Sioux Falls. They had planned to drive to Minneapolis the next day to participate in their sister's wedding.

She was traveling east on Highway 50 when Harter, driving the wrong direction in the eastbound lane, struck the left side of Lias' vehicle.



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