A 107-miles-per-hour crash that killed two results in eight year prison term

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Golden Valley man was sentenced to eight years in prison for two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

After about 90 minutes of emotional victim impact statements from the families of Melvin Jones and Brandy Banks-Sutta, Hennepin County District Court Judge Laurie Miller sentenced the 56-year-old Philip Scott Bertelsen to 48 months on each of the counts and ordered that they be served consecutively. That was the sentenced requested by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Bertelsen also was sentenced to three years in prison, to be served concurrently, for injuries suffered by four people in the cars ahead of the one driven by Jones.

“He was sentenced to 96 months for the horrific crash he caused, taking the life of two innocent people,” Freeman said after the sentencing. “There is no excuse. The 96 months he received was warranted and it is the maximum allowed by law.”

According to the criminal complaint, at 1:28 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2013, officers responded to the collision at Olson Memorial Highway and Morgan Avenue North. Bertelsen was stuck in a white Buick sedan. Jones, 20, and Banks-Sutta, 21, were in a Chevy Impala, which was rear-ended by Bertelsen as the couple was stopped at a red light. Their Impala was pushed into the rear end of a Ford Explorer and the Explorer then hit a mini-van.

Information from the crash data retrieval system in Bertelsen’s car indicated he was driving 107 miles per hour just moments before the crash. While the blood draw was excluded from testimony because it was obtained from Bertelsen without a warrant, it could be used in the sentencing and Bertelsen acknowledged Tuesday that he was drunk when it happened.

Nkenge Flagg, Jones’ mother, told the court that her son was her first born and had always been a role-model for his younger brother and two sisters. He did well in school and was studying to be a nurse.

“Melvin has always been a pleasure to be around,” Flagg said. “He is one of the most compassionate and loving individuals I have ever known. He always made me proud.”

Now, Flagg said, she cries almost every day and both families have “”been handed a life sentence of grief.”

Brandy’s sister, Brittany Bank-Sutta, said “Brandy found the best in everyone. She had the biggest heart. She was my best friend and a great auntie.”  Her mother, LouAnn Pendleton, described Brandy as “head strong, stunningly beautiful and very humble.”

When it was his turn to speak, Bertelsen said he was sorry for what he did and that he had been sober for 30 years before he slipped back into excessive drinking. His attorney asked Judge Miller for a sentence of probation.

Judge Miller, before handing down her sentence, told Bertelsen, “you are responsible for your behavior that night,” and that she would not give him a lighter sentence.

Criminal Complaint (PDF)