90 days for driver in fatal hit-and-run

By Scott Hammers | The Bulletin | June 12, 2013

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Source: The Bulletin

A Bend man will serve 90 days in jail for fleeing the scene of the crash that killed Anthony "Tony" Martin 21/2 years ago.

In a statement to the court prior to sentencing on a charge of failure to perform the duties of a driver on Tuesday, Bret Biedscheid, 40, apologized to Martin's friends and family but provided no new details of the circumstances surrounding the crash or his decision to flee. He acknowledged his failure to perform what he called "my legal and moral obligation to a fellow human being," and said he will understand if Martin's loved ones are unwilling to forgive him.

"I'm so deeply sorry and wish I could do something to relieve your suffering," Biedscheid said.

Biedscheid must check himself in to the Deschutes County jail by noon today. Deschutes County Deputy District Attorney Kari Hathorn had requested a 16- to 18-month sentence, in line with state sentencing guidelines, while defense attorney Stephen Houze had requested a probationary sentence with no jail time.

Under the sentence imposed by Deschutes County District Court Judge Roger DeHoog, Biedscheid will be on probation for three years following his release from jail, will have his driver's license suspended for five years, and must perform 500 hours of community service.

Biedscheid had originally been charged with criminally negligent homicide, a charge prosecutors agreed to dismiss in exchange for the guilty plea for failure to perform the duties of a driver. He was not charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants -Tuesday, Houze acknowledged Biedscheid had been drinking at the Black Horse Saloon prior to the crash, but said he was not impaired.

On Jan. 26, 2011, Biedscheid was driving south on Third Street when he struck Martin just north of Revere Avenue at around 11 p.m. Martin, who was walking with a second man while pushing his bicycle across the street, suffered multiple skull fractures and broken bones and died at the scene.

Recalling a surveillance video captured from the Albertsons across the street from the collision, Hathorn described how Biedscheid tapped his brakes briefly after striking Martin, then continued driving. A few days later, Houze contacted Bend Police to turn over Biedscheid's damaged truck, and officers conducted a search of Biedscheid's home.

Until recently, computers seized during that search had been off-limits to prosecutors, as Houze had argued the computers contained privileged attorney-client communications. On Tuesday, Hathorn described some of what the district attorney's office found on those computers, noting that while there was no additional information suggesting Biedscheid was intoxicated, it was clear he knew he had hit and possibly seriously injured a pedestrian.

Hathorn said Biedscheid's computer activity on the day after the crash included deleting his Facebook account, checking news reports of the crash, and searching for new vehicles and an auto body shop.

Houze acknowledged the "incalculable loss" caused by Martin's death, while characterizing the crash as an "unavoidable accident" brought on by Martin's intoxication.

Tests performed after Martin was killed placed his blood alcohol level at an estimated .22, nearly three times the legal limit to drive, Houze said, and found evidence he'd ingested methamphetamine and marijuana. People who had been with Martin prior to the crash described him as "super drunk," "incoherent" and "out of it," Houze said.

Police crash reconstructionists estimated Biedscheid's speed at 37 mph, just 2 mph above the speed limit at the crash site, Houze said, and determined it was the darkest section of Third Street. A northbound driver who heard the crash behind her and stopped told investigators she hadn't seen the two men in the roadway, Houze said, though they would have been near the middle of the street just prior to Biedscheid's truck striking Martin.

Friends and family of both Biedscheid and Martin addressed DeHoog prior to sentencing.

David Crouse, a close friend of Martin's whose children knew him as "Uncle Tony," said Martin was "an exceptional person," and described Biedscheid's conduct as "deplorable." Martin loved everyone and was loved by everyone, Crouse said, and was always willing to help a friend regardless of the consequences.

"It could have been his 25th DUII, and he would have stopped, and now we're minus one man like that in this world, and that's a loss, in my opinion," he said.

Crouse highlighted Biedscheid's position as director of accounting for Les Schwab Tire Centers, and suggested his status allowed him to avoid being held responsible for his actions.

"I would rather have a conscience than a get-out-of-jail free card because of corporate muscle and influence," Crouse said.

Ann Marie Anderson, a neighbor of Biedscheid's family, told the court how Bret and his wife, Ellyn, were the first people they met when they moved to Bend six years ago.

Anderson said she regards Biedscheid as "a hero," recalling the times he's come to her family's aid. When her 4-year-daughter went missing, Biedscheid jumped in his truck and patrolled the neighborhood until he found her. He was the first person she called when her husband was in the intensive care unit following a serious ski accident, Anderson said, and when she went into labor at 4 a.m. and had to find someone to look after her daughter when she went to the hospital.

"When we need to call on someone for help and for hope, we call Bret," she said. "He is always there to lend a hand."

In issuing the sentence, DeHoog said though it was clear to him that Biedscheid's decision to leave the scene was a "terrible lapse of judgment," he'd seen no evidence to suggest stopping to aid Martin would have saved his life. By failing to stop, however, Biedscheid made Martin's death more difficult for his family members, DeHoog said, as they may have been comforted knowing Biedscheid did what he could to help.

Following the ruling, District Attorney Patrick Flaherty acknowledged the case had been difficult from the very beginning.

Flaherty said his office attempted to secure an indictment on a DUII charge, presenting the grand jury with testimony from staff at the Black Horse Saloon about Biedscheid's drinking that night. An expert estimated Biedscheid's BAC could have been near the legal limit, Flaherty said, but the grand jury chose not to return an indictment.

Without a DUII charge, proving criminal negligence and in turn the criminally negligent homicide charge was likely to be challenging, Flaherty said. However, given the possibility new evidence would emerge to support the criminally negligent homicide, the district attorney's office declined to drop the charge, he said.

Houze said he had no complaints about the sentence. Pointing to his client's past record of community service, Houze predicted local residents will once again hear good things about Biedscheid someday soon.

"There's not a person on the planet who can't make a tragic error in judgment in a moment of confusion, shock and panic," Houze said.