Philip Bertelsen charged for killing two driving drunk at 95 mph; released without bail

Categories: Crime
PhilipBertelsen.jpg
Philip Bertelsen
Think the court system took it easy on Amy Senser? Consider the case of 55-year-old Golden Valley resident Philip Bertelsen.

Earlier this week, Bertelsen was charged with four felonies, including two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, in connection with a November 3 accident that killed 20-year-old St. Paul resident Melvin Jones and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Minneapolis resident Brandy Banks-Sutta. Yet after he appeared in court on Wednesday, he was released from custody without having to post bail. He's reportedly due back in court May 20.

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The accident occurred around 1:30 a.m. at Olson Memorial Highway and Morgan Avenue North in Minneapolis. According to the criminal complaint, Bertelsen, driving a white Buick sedan, slammed into the back of an Impala driven by Jones at a stoplight. When cops arrived at the scene Jones and Banks-Sutta were already dead, and Bertelsen was "unresponsive," bloody, and hunched over into the passenger's seat of his car.

Bertelsen's blood alcohol level was .18, but he was hit with new charges this week because information recovered from the crash data retrieval system in his car indicated he was traveling at a rate of 107 mph three seconds before impact, 104 mph two seconds before impact, and 95 mph one second before impact, according to the complaint.

We called Hennepin County District Judge William Koch in hopes he could clarify the rationale behind his decision to release Bertelsen without bail, but an employee in his chambers declined comment. We also called Mike Padden, an attorney representing Banks-Sutta's family, but he hasn't returned our voicemail.

Asked about Bertelsen's release, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told us, "It is unusual."

Unsurprisingly, the victims' families are upset with Koch's decision. Padden told KSTP Banks-Sutta's family is "devastated," adding, "When you hear the state request bail at $300,000, and then the decision is made for no bail, that can be fairly shocking." (Bertelsen's attorney points out his client has completed alcohol treatment since the wreck.)

The Star Tribune reports that while Bertelsen didn't have to post bail to be released, he will have to abide by specific conditions, likely including no use of drugs or alcohol, completing a chemical dependency evaluation, and remaining law-abiding.

A search of Minnesota court records indicates Betelsen's driver's license was suspended in 2008 after he failed to appear at a court hearing regarding a "signal to turn" ticket. Our search didn't turn up anything else, but the Strib reports he was convicted 11 times for various driving violations in slightly more than 10 years, with the offenses including speeding, excessive acceleration, and disobeying traffic signals.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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29 comments
Intelligent23
Intelligent23

You can email the judge

Google judge William Koch

I am 23 years old and i am tired of the world we live in. Things need to change

Harold Torres
Harold Torres

This is why drunk driving isn't taken seriously in this state.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

I think the real problem here isn't the way this guy was released without bail, it's the way the bail system is routinely abused in other cases to coerce defendants to plead guilty so prosecutors don't have to make an actual case.

Roger Her
Roger Her

BS...people die everyday from sober accidents

MikeFreindsworth
MikeFreindsworth

The timing of this probably affected the outcome as much as any thing else did. During November and December the attorneys on both sides will collude to either ram the case through the courts or postpone troublesome cases until the next year. This is so that the lawyers don't have to do much work during the holidays, where "the holidays" mean Thanksgiving through NYE.  A family member of mine used to be a public defender in Anoka county and it was disturbing hearing how much of a person's legal fate can be affected by the whims of the lawyers. 

Mike Moravec
Mike Moravec

Why do we have crackdowns, extra patrols and all of these commercials about DUI enforcement if this is the end result?

riggeddickfarts
riggeddickfarts

only white/caucasian people in MN will get away with something like this SMH

MNjoe
MNjoe topcommenter

Lucky this guy was drinking rather that "ON MARIJUANA." Otherwise that $300,000 bail would be a done deal.

laxx1559
laxx1559

I don't understand.  If the purpose of bail is to ensure you show up to court, why isn't someone charged with the ultimate offense given some sort of bail? GPS monitoring? Something fishy is going on here- THIS IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS

Steve Woodward
Steve Woodward

It's unfortunate that most drunks I mean judges dont take dui seriously. It happens all over not just minnesota.

Kaia Rubin
Kaia Rubin

Usually golden valley trolls that entire area... How'd they miss this guy?

Virginia Fleming Tschida
Virginia Fleming Tschida

We just continue to ignore drunk drivers. They are killing people. they are making a choice so it is not an accident. It sickens me

Paul McDonough
Paul McDonough

Judge William"Billy" Koch is up for re-election this year. Don't like his bleeding heart mentality than vote him out!

pmikka
pmikka

the primary purpose of bail is to ensure the defendant's attendance at subsequent proceedings. unless and until the defendant has skipped town, there's been no foul nor reason to be upset. Bail should not be utilized as a pre-emptive punishment. 

_Joe_
_Joe_

Thanks captain obvious!


That is honestly one of the most blindingly stupid comments I've ever read on this site.

laxx1559
laxx1559

@pmikka  He KILLED two people, let alone the FOUR other felonies he was charged with.  You'd think they'd give him some sort of monitoring device.

_Joe_
_Joe_

@laxx1559 @pmikkaflight risk is assessed on a case by case basis.  No flight risk = no bail.  Deal with it.

FUCKtheDFL
FUCKtheDFL

@laxx1559

This happened back in November. If he had been a flight risk, I am sure he wouldn't have completed treatment and would have skipped town a long time ago.

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