PORTLAND, Ore. – A Multnomah County judge on Monday granted the suspected drunk driver in a deadly Portland crash release from jail before his trial begins next month.
Brent Warstler is accused of driving drunk and causing a crash that killed 20-year-old Rebecca Bray and critically injured 21-year-old Brandi Butner in Portland’s Old Town on Jan. 20. Butner is still in the hospital recovering from her injuries.
The prosecutor fought Warstler's early release, arguing that the man had a blood alcohol level of .20 and was driving twice the speed limit when he went through a red light and collided with a taxi. The taxi forced Warstler’s truck onto the sidewalk where the two women were standing and waiting for a ride home.
Six other people were injured in the crash: Three people in Warstler's truck and another three in the taxi. None of those injuries was serious.
The judge reduced Warstler’s bail from $297,500 to $50,000, which is the minimum for a Measure 11 crime. Warstler's attorney said his client would post bail.
Warstler will be required to wear a GPS monitor and an alcohol monitor that tests him every half hour. He also won’t be able to drive without the court’s permission and will have to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily, the judge said. Warstler will also be under house arrest until supervisors decide whether he can go back to work.
The judge said it was reasonable to reduce Warstler's bail and that several factors had been taken into account, including a lack of criminal history.
But for family members of the victims, none of that was enough. Butner’s family was in the courtroom Monday morning and begged the judge to keep Warstler in jail.
“Becky’s mom [is] just traumatized over this,” the survivor's father, Bruce Butner, said. “I just don’t understand it, how he can be able to be released. As far as I’m concerned, he murdered somebody out of his own judgment.”
"I do not think it is fair, just or right that Brent Warstler be released to his home before sentence served," said Sarah Bray, the sister of Rebecca Bray, who was killed. "My sister does not have the option to come home. That chance was stolen from her."
"It was an incident created by negligence and utter disrespect - not only to himself, but others he put in harm's way," Bray added.
Warstler did not speak during the hearing but his attorney told the judge that Warstler is a good person and is truly sorry.
Bruce Butner told KATU News on Sunday that if his daughter can’t come home, the man accused of putting her in the hospital shouldn’t be allowed to leave jail.
“Unfortunately he’s taken the life of Becky and pretty much destroyed my daughter’s life at this point,” he said. “My daughter can’t come home. Becky’s never going to come home again. So you have to think about where the law is to even think about allowing him to get out.”
Butner said his daughter still cannot stand up without help, and she can’t hold her 6-month-old son in her arms. He said he had to tell her that the driver accused of hitting her last month could be out of jail soon.
“Her emotions are just going wild right now,” Butner said on Sunday. “She has anger. She cries because [she says] ‘dad, how come this happened to me? I did everything right,’ and she did.”
Brandi Butner's Facebook page reads "I just wanna go home to my son and be better already."
Meanwhile, Warstler’s trial is scheduled to begin March 14. It is important to be clear that this is only a pre-trial release. If Warstler is found guilty at his trial next month, he could go to prison for years.