Timothy Bakdash sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering Benjamin Van Handel

Timothy Bakdash will spend at least the next 27 years behind bars for running over and killing University of Minnesota student Bejamin Van Handel after a night of heavy drinking last April.

Judge Daniel Mabley today sentenced Bakdash, 30,  to 40 years in prison, with his first parole eligibility to occur when he's 57 years old.

Mabley's sentence was extremely strict -- not only was 40 years more than twice what the defense asked for, it even surpassed the 25 years prosecutors expected.

Last month, a jury found Bakdash guilty of murder in the second degree as well as felony murder and criminal vehicular homicide. During testimony at the trial, Bakdash said he was extremely intoxicated the night he ran down Van Handel in Dinkytown, having ingested 15 to 20 drinks and three to five shots during a three-and-a-half-hour period.

"I was extremely intoxicated," Bakdash said. "I was in and out of reality. I was drunk, real drunk."

He told jurors he mistook Van Handel for a man he had argued with at the bar and intended to scare him by driving his car on the sidewalk near where Van Handel was walking. But next thing he knew, he had run down Van Handel and two women who ended up being hospitalized.

"It happened so fast," Bakdash said. After the hit-and-run, Bakdash drove home and was at work in Burnsville six hours later. He was arrested the following week.

Judge Mabley showed no mercy. Referring to Bakdash's nearly two-decade record of struggles with drugs and alcohol, he told Bakdash that "anyone who knew you knew this day would come."

When given the chance to speak today, Bakdash looked directly at Van Handel's family and apologized "for putting them through this painful experience." He said "there isn't a day I don't think about this," adding that his sorrow over the incident is so profound that he's "wanted to kill myself."

Some observed that Bakdash seemed to lack emotion during his deadpan apology, but his defense attorney, Joseph Tamburino, said that's because Bakdash is "under a ton of meds."

Van Handel's father, asked after sentencing whether he thought justice was done, said, "I'm glad he's going to have to spend significant time in prison, but 'justice' is a word out there that I'm going to have to come to terms with."

Previous coverage:
-- Timothy Bakdash guilty of murdering Benjamin Van Handel
-- Timothy Bakdash's attorney plans to argue his client was too drunk to commit murder
-- Timothy Bakdash indicted for first-degree murder
-- Timothy Bakdash says he ran over pedestrians on purpose
-- Ben Van Handel wasn't Timothy Bakdash's intended target on the night he died

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