NEW: Elderly man who struck boy in Watertown crosswalk reaches plea deal

March 19, 2024
Mike Tanner

WATERTOWN, S.D.–An elderly man who struck a child with his vehicle near the Watertown Boys and Girls Club, then left the scene, has been sentenced after reaching a plea deal.

Ninety eight year-old Sylvester Korbel of Watertown was initially charged with Felony Hit and Run in connection with the January 4th accident.

KWAT News was in court today (Tuesday) as Korbel pleaded guilty to reduced charges of Careless Driving and Failing to Yield.

An eight year-old boy was crossing the street in a school zone in the 1000-block of Third Avenue Northeast when Korbel’s eastbound vehicle struck him.

The boy, identified in court documents by the initials S.F., then got up and ran across to the other side of the street. He suffered abrasions, but no serious physical injuries.

Korbel briefly got out of his vehicle, but made no contact with the boy, and then left the scene.

He was arrested by Watertown police three blocks away, where defense attorney Roger Ellyson says he was handcuffed, given a field sobriety test and then booked into jail.

The prosecution requested a 30 day jail sentence with 28 days suspended after reading a victim impact statement from the boy’s father, who’s a highway patrolman.

Ellyson told the court that Korbel was sorry for what happened, and acknowledged that his client should have stayed with the boy. But he noted that as part of the plea agreement, Korbel agreed to relinquish his driver’s license, which he said is a “big deal, even for a 98 year-old man.”

Ellyson said he’s known Korbel for 30 years. He says his client is, “a good man, a World War II veteran who proudly served his country, has no criminal history, and spends each week raising money for children through volunteer work at Immaculate Conception School.”

As for the state requesting two days in jail for a 98 year-old man, Ellyson asked, “what’s the purpose, to humiliate him?”

After hearing sentencing recommendations from both sides, Magistrate Judge Bob Pesall sentenced Korbel to a combined $237.50 in fines, but no jail time.