Unfortunately, due to some crossed wires, I didn’t hear about the outcome in the case of Jesse Bradley, a Northwestern law student killed by an intoxicated driver, until recently. However, Streetsblog readers will want to know that Bianca Garcia, the motorist who killed Bradley while drunk and high and then fled the scene, has received an appropriately long jail sentence. “It’s a very good ending,” said victim advocate Sharon Johnson from the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists.
“My son was so smart and so loving, just a good, good kid,” Bradley’s mother Colleen told me earlier this year. She described the 32-year-old as a shy, quiet person with a dry sense of humor. Having completed a couple years of challenging studies at Northwestern, he’d taken off two terms and was working at a Gold Coast Starbucks, where he’d learned to become much more outgoing by chatting with customers. He was set to finish school that summer and planned to work in business law.
Around 2:30 a.m. on March 24, 2012, Bradley was walking home to his apartment at 1140 North LaSalle after finishing a late shift and getting a snack with coworkers. Garcia, 21 at the time, had been out drinking with friends at several bars that night. As Bradley walked west across the south leg of the LaSalle/Division intersection, Garcia was speeding south on LaSalle, swerving violently. She struck Bradley, killing him instantly, then fled eastbound on Elm, going the wrong way down the one-way street for two blocks.
Fortunately, two police officers were sitting in a squad car on Elm at the time. They pulled Garcia over as she fled south on Dearborn and found her drivers license had expired. A test showed her blood alcohol content was 0.168 percent, more than twice the legal limit, and she had a cocktail of hard drugs in her system. She was charged with felony aggravated DUI and several other counts.
According to a Sun-Times report, Garcia had been pulled over by police at least six times in the previous five years. The first time was in 2008 when she was seventeen and was driving home from a New Year’s Eve party in Riverside after drinking a pint of rum. She was required to pay more than $1,000 in fines and undergo a year of supervision, but kept her license.
In early 2013, Garcia was offered a sentence of 12 years in prison, with the requirement that she serve at least 8.5 years of the sentence, Johnson said. After the defendant rejected that offer, the case continued for several more months. Last December, Garcia entered a blind plea of guilty to the charges in the Bradley case. On May 21, Judge Stanley Sacks sentenced her to 16 years of prison, with a minimum of 12 years of “real time.”
“That’s what can happen if you don’t take the original offer,” Johnson said. “It’s a very fair sentence, but it’s one of the highest sentences I’ve seen a judge give in recent years.” After completing her prison term, Garcia must also undergo two years of probation.
Johnson spoke highly of Sacks’ conduct during the case. Bradley’s mother, father and sister read victim impact statements, and Garcia’s mother, sister, uncle, and pastor read statements on her behalf. “The judge was actually pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “You could tell that he listened to everything and incorporated it into his closing remarks. It made Jesse’s family feel like he wasn’t just sitting there pretending to listen, he actually listened. I wish all my cases were in front of him.”
Sacks mentioned that Garcia’s 2008 DUI conviction was a major factor in his decision. An officer who arrested her for that incident testified during the Bradley case. Apparently referring to the fact that Garcia’s mother is a Chicago police officer herself, Sacks argued that the defendant should have know better than to be a repeat offender, Johnson said.
In the closing statement, Sacks noted that Garcia’s family members repeatedly called the Bradley case a wake-up call for the defendant. “Killing a man is a wake-up call?” he said. “The first DUI should have been her wake-up call.” He argued that Bradley was a mere footnote in their pleas for leniency towards Garcia.
In her victim impact statement, Colleen Bradley read a passage from Agatha Christie. “It frightens me that nobody seems to care about the innocent,” she read. “Nobody seems to go through the agony of the victim. They’re only full of pity for the young killer because of his youth.” Sacks repeated the passage in his final statement.
Colleen Bradley was satisfied with the sentence and appreciated the way the judge respected her family and acknowledged their loss, according to Johnson. “The judge is hoping that maybe Bianca will come out of prison a more different person,” Johnson said.