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Mother speaks out about punishment for Gladstone crash

Photo courtesy of Stark County Sheriff's Department The above vehicle was in a rollover which occurred in Gladstone at the end of November.

Joy Baggatta of Dickinson is angry about the punishment a Dickinson man received after allegedly failing to get help for her daughter, Bridgette Schmidt, after they were involved in a crash in November.

Schmidt, who is 16, had her jaw broken in two places along with several minor scratches and bruises during the crash.

Derek Huschka, 18, was driving the vehicle that rolled.

It took between 45 minutes and several hours before Schmidt was taken to the hospital, according to the Stark County Sheriff's Department.

She waited in the cold, bleeding from her injuries until she was taken to the hospital by another juvenile, Baggatta said.

"It aggravates me," Schmidt said. "Just because of the way they handled it and tried covering it up."

Huschka was charged with failing to get immediate aid to the girl, aggravated reckless driving and underage drinking. Three juveniles were also referred to juvenile court for consuming alcohol.

The failure to get immediate aid, which is a felony, was dismissed in Stark County Court and the aggravated reckless driving was amended to reckless endangerment. Huschka was sentenced to 90 days in jail that he has to serve by Sept. 15.

"I don't think it's fair," Schmidt said, adding he should have had a harsher punishment.

Baggatta said the punishment doesn't make sense.

"What boils me so bad is they know the circumstances of this case," Baggatta said. "They knew from the very start these kids all lied through their damn teeth."

She said the juvenile who took Schmidt to the hospital told doctors he found her behind Prairie Hills Mall and that she had been physically assaulted.

"This is the story these kids came up with because none of them wanted to get in trouble," Baggatta said.

Baggatta said Schmidt's facial injuries were shocking.

"She actually looked like somebody took a razor blade and cut her from one side of her face to the other," Baggatta said. "One side of her face was cut from the ear all the way down to the chin. It was something you never want to see."

She said the doctors who treated Schmidt had to pick debris from the crash out of her wounds.

Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning said the felony against Huschka was dropped due to a technicality.

"When he departed the scene, he went to a nearby residence and supposedly he went there to report the accident and try to get help, despite the fact that he had a cell phone on him," Henning said. "We put in evidence that there was no call placed from that cell phone to any emergency services provider. We couldn't show that when he left the scene to go to a nearby house, he didn't go for the purpose of finding someone to render assistance. That was the problem."

Baggatta does not believe Huschka left the scene to get help for her daughter.

"The only help he was seeking was help for himself," Baggatta said. "She was not their top priority. That was obvious."

Henning declined to comment about why the aggravated reckless driving was amended to reckless endangerment. However he said they are equivalent offenses, since they are both Class A misdemeanors.

Schmidt is still getting treatments for her injuries.

"She's got a couple of roots that are fractured and part of her gum is missing," Baggatta said. "They don't know for sure if they're going to have to do any grafting. She may end up having root canals and crowns done."

She said they are unsure whether the scars on Schmidt's face will ever heal.

"The possibility of having to have some type of cosmetic surgery is definitely there," Baggatta said.

Schmidt said the scars are a constant reminder of what happened to her.

Baggatta can't help but imagine what would have happened if her daughter's injuries would have been worse.

"If she would have had any spinal injury or anything they could have paralyzed her for life, they could have killed her," Baggatta said. "It just burns me to no end. ... How the hell could they let him off?"

Henning said Huschka will go back to court in May to try to get restitution for medical costs from Schmidt's injuries.

Several calls to Huschka were not returned.