Exclusive: Man who killed Angela Burke gets 60 months in plea deal

Posted by on July 13th, 2011 at 11:57 am

Caleb Pruitt will return to
custody tomorrow.

The Multnomah County District Attorney is set to formally accept a plea deal between the family of Angela Burke and Caleb Pruitt.

Late at night on December 15th, Pruitt drove his Subaru Impreza at a high rate of speed (according to Police) on SW Barbur Blvd and struck Burke as she walked her bike across the street. Burke, a 26-year old from Albany, New York who had just recently moved to Portland, died in the collision.

In the deal, which is expected to be announced tomorrow, Pruitt will plead guilty to Criminally Negligent Homicide, Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants, and three counts of Recklessly Endangering Another Person (for Burke and the two people that were passengers in his car). He will serve 60 months in prison, which could be reduced to 48 months on good behavior.

Angela Burke
(Photo courtesy Athena Burke)

Pruitt, 28, was charged with Manslaughter, a Measure 11 crime that would have come with a mandatory 75 month sentence (with no eligibility for reduced time).

In exchange for dismissal of the Manslaughter charge, DA Chuck Sparks told BikePortland that Pruitt has agreed to help Burke’s family with their pending civil case by sharing information with their lawyers about where he served alcohol and how much he had to drink. In addition, Pruitt has agreed to pay for six members of Burke’s family to fly from New York to Portland so they can be present at the sentencing hearing on August 26th. Pruitt will pay for airfare, hotel, and rental cars.

“It’s not typical for a defendant to pay for victim’s costs in this situation,” says Sparks.

Pruitt has already written letters of apology to the Burke family.

Once he has served his time in prison, Pruitt must attend drug and alcohol treatment, participate in a victim’s panel, and his license will be revoked for eight years (from the time he is released). He will also pay a $250,000 fine, according to a KOIN-TV report. Pruitt will also get five years of probation, which will begin when he is sentenced in August.

Sparks says Pruitt will be taken into custody tomorrow and will remain in custody until his sentence begins.

While Sparks understands why some members of the Burke family would have liked to see an even stronger punishment, he says Pruitt, “Is taking substantial responsibility for what he did.”

— For more on the Angele Burke fatality, read our archives.

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davemess
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davemess

I think that is a fair sentence. So what was so different about this and the almost fatality on Multnomah Blvd? She got of scott free! I mean understand there was a death versus major injuries, and alcohol was a factor, but amazing how different the sentences are. Was alcohol the main factor? So the moral of the story is you can get away with most things, as long as you’re not drunk?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Fair? Four years in prison for taking someone’s life. Something like that can never really be fair exchange for the victim, their family and friends. But it’s something.

Some of the differences between Pruitt’s actions, and those of the distracted driver woman on Multnomah Blvd is that Pruitt wasn’t only drunk, he was deliberately driving at an excessively high rate of speed with little or no apparent regard for what could potentially happen to other people due to his actions.

There’s a bit of a miracle involved, in that somehow, his irresponsible actions didn’t involve the deaths of others besides Angela Burke.

This guy should never…ever…drive a motor vehicle again.

dmc
Guest
dmc

I agree, he should never be allowed to drive again.

DR
Guest
DR

How ironic that he may have to use a bicycle to get around.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

‘get to’ not ‘have to’

fx
Guest
fx

Maybe. At least part of the ruling I hope would be “if ever convicted of a DUII, the 60 month probationary sentence (plus the parole time of the 60 month prison sentence) to be served in back in prison, in addition to…”

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

So what is a fair penalty?

davemess
Guest
davemess

So you do not hold ODOT accountable somewhat for the ridiculous road that is Barbur? A road that absolutely encourages speeding.
Just saying that this tragedy would have likely not happened on say Terwiliger.

banjo
Guest
banjo

agree completely

Jeff P
Guest
Jeff P

disagree completely. I’ve been hit on terwilliger; never hit opn barbur.

this is about people not being able to drive their cars responsibly on a given road set.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I also have a slight bit of sympathy for the guy. Yes what he did was awful. But how many people on here can claim that they have never sped on Barbur (let alone in the middle of the night when there is no one on the road)? This could be any number of us.
I feel like being drunk was not really the main issue (someone perfectly sober, with a good driving record could have hit her going 50mph (which is for all purposes expected on Barbur)).

Again I think infrastructure had something to do with this accident.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…I feel like being drunk was not really the main issue (someone perfectly sober, with a good driving record could have hit her going 50mph (which is for all purposes expected on Barbur)). …” davemess

If you search past bikeportland stories on this incident, or court transcripts, you will find testimony from one of the people riding in the car with Pruitt.

That person testified that as Pruitt was driving at a speed investigators believe…if I remember correctly…was around 80mph, he commented to his passengers, something to the effect that the speed he was traveling on that road was the fine line between control of the vehicle and losing control of the vehicle.

It appears Pruitt was very drunk, deliberately driving very fast for the road he was on, and by his remarks to passengers in the car with him, didn’t seem to care much about what happened to anyone as a result of his choice in manner of driving.

That’s more criminal than someone drunk, driving the road at 50mph and colliding with someone or something.

cycler
Guest
cycler

“when there is no one on the road”
Obviously that wasn’t the case- someone WAS on the road, and he should have been driving in a manner that anticipated that.

Oh Word?
Guest
Oh Word?

blame it on the “infrastructure”, priceless.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

“This guy should never…ever…drive a motor vehicle again.”

Agree with you in theory, wsbob. But, honestly how do we enforce it? Not having a drivers license doesn’t prevent someone from driving. And, say he gets out of prison and does quit drinking. He is out with friends at a party where his friend is visibly drunk. Should he not be allowed to drive his drunk friend home? And, if he did drive a drunk friend home, what would be the punishment? More prison time for basically acting responsibly? I know he could take a cab (expensive) or Tri-met (shuts down around midnight).

I think the guy is probably getting a ligher sentence than he should. But, it also sounds like the family is fine with this as they want to go after deeper pockets. And, hey! Free plane tickets to the West Coast!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Agree with you in theory, wsbob. But, honestly how do we enforce it? …” Mindful Cyclist

Good question. I don’t think anyone really has an answer for that. In the U.S. effectiveness of law regarding something as openly accessible as motor vehicles, has to rely on people’s willingness to abide by the law.

I think you answered the key question posed by your analogy of a sober DUI suspended person debating whether to drive their intoxicated friends home: taxi, bus, etc.

What if though, if it was a situation of urgently needed medical care, in a location where ambulances weren’t readily available? In Oregon, outside of the metro areas in the Willamette Valley, that seems a likely possibility. If the suspended license person was sober while making such an emergency drive, and wasn’t driving outside of a singular incident like this, I imagine the court would definitely take that into consideration.

I’m going to assume you’re joking about the ‘free plane tickets to the west coast’. Some vacation. Even with a sizable money award, enduring civil court proceedings to get a stranger to pay up for having killed a family member, doesn’t sound like very much fun.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Back to the difference between two incidents mentioned by davemess–

I believe the problem is that killing someone with your car is not a crime, it is an “accident”. DUII is a crime, DWD (Driving With Dog) is not a crime. Driving while talking on the cell phone is an infraction, driving while changing CDs or eating hamburgers is not.

If I were king, there would be a new class of traffic law, or perhaps just an extension of the “Due Care” principle. Something like “failure to devote due attention to the task of operating a motor vehicle”. Hitting anything with your car, unless it was unavoidably hurled into your path, would constitute “prima facie” evidence of failure to devote due attention to the task of operating a motor vehicle. The penalty for the offense, per se, would be somewhere between the penalty for cell phone use and driving drunk. However, if someone was injured or killed while the driver was failing to devote due attention, the same penalties as killing someone while driving drunk could apply.

If I were king.

Martin
Guest

I like this idea.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Weird plea deal. So he is sharing information he should be required to share anyway, and is paying several thousand dollars to the victim’s family, and for just that he gets a significantly reduced sentence? I understand the benefit of no trial and reduced costs of prosecution, but that deal clearly favors the perp at the expense of safety to society when this guy gets out.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It sounds like he gets out of the manslaughter charge by pointing the finger at the bars that served him. Deeper pockets, you know.

Kevin Nettleship
Guest
Kevin Nettleship

He probably was required to share the information as a part of plea negotiation. In the investigation or at trial how could he be ‘required’ to provide incriminating information?

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Maybe the Fifth Amendment is indeed applicable, but my point is more that the information is useless at this late date. Are prosecutors going to walk into some bar and say, “hey, this totally untrustworthy guy says you served him six drinks last year”? That won’t go anywhere, nobody can prove where he was or if he had additional drinks somewhere else. And besides, people have to be responsible for their actions (choosing to drive in that condition) and not blame a server when it is common to be wasted and a totally unsafe driver, and yet fake sobriety well enough to get served “just one more drink.” It’s not like you have to walk a line or touch your nose with your eyes closed to get a drink. Prosecuting servers is a silly angle to begin with, except in extreme cases, because it is so arbitrary.

Dave
Guest
Dave

No license for 8 years, better start saving for a bike!

I agree, it is a fair sentence, and the fact that he is paying for travel costs for her family show good faith on his part. Still a very sad story.

kittens
Guest
kittens

Since when was it just to pay off a victim’s family. This has nothing to do with them. It is about his broken pact with civil society.

Nick V
Guest

At least he seems to be showing remorse. That’s uncommon these days.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“At least he seems to be showing remorse. That’s uncommon these days.” Nick V

There is that to be said for him, if it can be correctly assumed he’s sincere, and not simply conniving to exploit people’s capacity for lenience and sympathy.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

wsbob
Fair? Four years in prison for taking someone’s life. Something like that can never really be fair exchange for the victim, their family and friends. But it’s something.

There is NO fair exchange for someone’s life. There is only retribution (which is of no redeeming social value but feels good) and prevention (of repeat occurrences).

wsbob
This guy should never…ever…drive a motor vehicle again.

Agree.

Makes me long for a good ol` fashion public shaming Scarlet Letter style but updated for the Internet Age.
Jail serves no purpose unless he disobeys his court ordered restrictions against driving.

If he is truly remorseful and matured from this experience then the best place for him to be is OUT OF JAIL being a HIGHLY VISIBLE public example of the consequences of ones poor choices. When we as a society simply lock “bad guys” up we not only allow them to share criminal techniques but also deny the general public the needed daily lesson of visible consequences for illegal acts.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Or perhaps a public stoning…

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I never said revenge or “an eye for and eye” nor did I imply nor infer it.

Revenge gives a victim, or their family, a warm fuzzy sense of satisfaction but a few thousand years of human history shows that retribution costs far more than was spent.

OTOH, hiding wrong doers from public view just makes the public feel naively safe and is of the same mentality as taking a pregnant teenage girl out of school and hiding her off in the country.

Hiding criminals in jails where the general public doesn’t have to think about the CAUSES of crime only helps to increase crime.

You can’t put out a forest fire by just cutting down the trees; there are a whole range of measures that need to be taken to stop a fire.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Well stated sentiments q’Tzal. I couldn’t agree more with your stance.

As a dumb teen I got myself in a spot of trouble, driving while smashed yet thankfully hurting no one and serving a mere 30 hour sentence in the “system”. The repercussions were mostly financial and left a deep impression. It got me on a bike and 20 yrs later I have not forgotten the lesson.

In this case, if it were an option, it seems the “scarlet letter” idea coupled with an educational component would be the most beneficial to all parties (assuming the grieving family could somehow accept it). Knowing the lifelong impact of my very brief incarceration leads me to believe it’s not about time served, but about a presented opportunity to make it right through service to community.

That said, it’s somehow refreshing to see an auto driver not just skate… which seems to be the case all too often.

Kudos to Mr. Pruitt for accepting some culpability. May he emerge from the system a better person.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…If he is truly remorseful and matured from this experience then the best place for him to be is OUT OF JAIL being a HIGHLY VISIBLE public example of the consequences of ones poor choices. …” q`Tzal

Maybe something like that. Possibly somehow donating labor. I won’t overlook how oppressive the prison experience can be, even in U.S. type prisons with edible meals, roofs that don’t leak, etc. Inmate violence and so forth. From the news though, in prison/jail, it seems there’s too much sitting around, not working. Perhaps because just cooping people up in small cells is less difficult and expensive to manage the population.

4 years though, for a young guy like that, is no big deal. People spend longer than that in college. What changes will this person go through in prison though? Will it be a better person that comes out? Or worse? We need the best chance at ensuring that a person having done what Burke did, won’t do something similar or worse again, once they’re released.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Excuse me:

“…having done what Burke did…” Obviously, I meant Pruitt. Sorry.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Unfortunately the “lock em up” philosophy of penology has just about run its course here in America. We can only afford to do that as long as we have enough money to lock everyone up.

Of the main precepts of corrections; deterrence, rehabilitation and retribution; each has its place. Those that can be rehabilitated to no longer be a threat to the community should be out paying taxes to support the community.
Those that can not or refuse to be rehabilitated and are a threat to the community should isolated from society at large for as long as needed.
That leaves retribution. Revenge is generally unethical, usually illegal but sometimes socially necessary. Retribution is for the individual, not the community; it should never stand between the primary duties of rehab and containment.

Mike
Guest
Mike

What would be considered “fair” retribution?
Loss of life? How about just a limb? Then he gets disability and we all pay.

Mike
Guest
Mike

“4 years though, for a young guy like that, is no big deal. People spend longer than that in college. ”

Is this assertion based on your prison stint?
Are you actually comparing prison to college – or is college worse because you are there longer?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I’m basing that statement on the fact that being young, Pruitt, once out, has got time to turn things around and still have a decent life, family, career and so forth. In reading my comment, you probably noticed my accounting for the reality that life in prison can be very tough despite better food and shelter than in prisons of some other countries.

I mentioned 4 years in college, mainly because that’s a 4 year period of time many people are familiar with.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’d argue that his sentence is not limited to 4 years in prison and temporary loss of his liscense. Sure, he is younger, but how easy will it be for him to get a job once he gets out? It’s pretty hard to turn your life around when you can’t get a job. And don’t kid yourself, once a potential employer finds out he went to prison for killing someone they will not look at his resume the same way.
Yeah, it’s only 4 years of traumatization that will have serious life long effects.
I’m not saying his sentence was too harsh. I do find it interesting how many penal experts are on this blog.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“I’d argue that his sentence is not limited to 4 years in prison and temporary loss of his liscense. …” Mike

Effectively, that would be true. To some degree, being confronted with what he’s done, for a considerable time after he’s out and driving again, is what’s supposed to happen.

Sure…with a criminal record, once he’s out looking, it’s probably going to a little tougher to get certain types of jobs. Through his own actions, he’s made himself somewhat of a less desirable potential employee.

Are you thinking that’s wrong? Are you thinking that, once out, as long as he doesn’t maim or kill anyone, he should be able to take up his old lifestyle again? If that were the way it worked, what would that say to all the other people out there thinking about partying hearty topped off with an adrenaline rush drive over public streets?

This is serious business, not -nickel-dime laugh it off sit around in prison for four years and I’m done’ stuff. What he’s looking at, down the road, will challenge his strength of character, and hopefully give him the basis for a change away from the kind of judgment and decision making that got him in this mess, and a decent person’s life ended.

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

When I’m at a bar it seems that when you go take a piss, there’s a “Don’t Drink & Drive” message plastered around the bathroom. Can’t people read? When do we stop coddling people. No drivers license for life, so to speak.
At the top of the comments is an ad to rent the “beer bike”, am I getting a mixed message here?

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

the message is: if you’re gonna drink and drive you’re better off on a bike…

commuter
Guest
commuter

I agree that this person should never be able to hold a drivers license again. It is a minor inconvenience when compared to the lost of a life.

Ted Buehler
Guest

Nice to see justice served. Lots of folks get off scot free when they kill bicyclists. Nice work, prosecution.

Ted Buehler

kww
Guest
kww

This is about a strict a sentence as can be meted out by the judge and DA. I have often criticized the DA’s office for plea bargains when a life was ended as a result. I don’t think I can really complain about this one.

If a stricter sentence is really wanted by the bicycle/pedestrian community, then the laws have to change.

captainkarma
Guest
captainkarma

Instead of taking up space in the prison-industrial profit making system, I’d like to see killers of vulnerable road users paying their own way in a halfway house with an electronic ankle bracelet; the only time allowed to be outside is when they are out sweeping the glass, gravel, & debris from bike lanes and MUPs eight hours a day with “striped pajamas” on.

Mike
Guest
Mike

If prisons are such a “profit making system”, then why are there too few and those are overcrowded and letting inmates out early?

Also- how do they pay their own way if all they can do is sweep the bikepaths? Sounds like tax payers would still be footing the bill.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It’s well-known that there are private prison operators getting fat off of taxpayer dollars.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

In Oregon? If so where? If not why bring it up because it’s not germane to the discussion.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Please site your assertion.

zappafrank
Guest
zappafrank

If these sort of sentences were handed out in all states, we would be getting somehwre!

Andy
Guest
Andy

Wow, a negligent driver actually got punished in OR. Amazing…

NW Biker
Guest
NW Biker

I think this sounds like he’s taking responsibility for what he did. There’s no real atonement for killing someone, but it sounds as if he’s doing what he can, and what more could we ask? If the article is accurate, he sounds like a person who made a terrible mistake, but is probably otherwise a decent human being. Who among us hasn’t done something just as stupid, but didn’t hurt anyone? I drove blind drunk across the city of Denver more than once when I was a teenager. I could easily have killed someone else or myself, wrecked my car, caused who knows what kind of damage, but I was lucky. Angela Burke wasn’t lucky, and neither was Caleb Pruitt.

He’s going to live the rest of his life knowing that he killed someone just being stupid and drunk behind the wheel of his car. That’s a life sentence.

Stig
Guest
Stig

8 year driving ban after release? If only that could be the mandatory minimum for 1st offense DUI in OR.

mh
Guest
mh

The eight years of licence revocation, if Pruitt has become responsible and refrains from driving without a license, is the best part of this plea deal. It sounds like he has money; otherwise, it would almost be tempting to take up a collection and put him on a bike.

kww
Guest
kww

Of course the caveat is, that I am hoping the DA ensures that if he moves out of state that he can not get another license. Sometimes major facts like Criminally Negligent Homicide don’t get reported to other state DOT’s.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

This is so much better than those cases where charges aren’t even pressed, or the perp bargains out of jail completely, etc.

Maybe we are starting to get somewhere.

CindySue
Guest
CindySue

I think he’s taking responsibility for his actions and is doing what he can – I’ve know him for a long time, and he’ll never recover from this. We all make mistakes and accidents happen. Unfortunately his mistake resulted in a life being taken way too soon. I think Caleb is doing everything he can to do the right thing, and I hope he and Angela’s family will get some peace after this is over.

dan
Guest
dan

I’m not sure that “mistake” is the correct word to use for a conscious decision to drive drunk and then speed on top of that. It is good for him to take responsibility, but I imagine that’s not much consolation for Angela Burke’s family.

One Less :(
Guest
One Less :(

And how in the heck are they going to monitor him? No driving for eight years, sure, but 90% of people without a license or on a suspended license STILL DRIVE DAILY! Dumb plea deal, but hey, I hope the family goes after him and the bar that served him for everything they have in the civil suit. The dude deserves to be punished for more than 48 months and 8 years not being able to drive. I pray that not one day goes by that he forgets that he took a life that didn’t need to be taken.

Stop drinking and driving (or riding) its dumb! So is running stop signs and red lights. What does it save you in the long run, MAYBE a minute or two on a commute. Seems like a lame excuse, just like not getting a taxi after pounding back some beers and then driving or riding home. DUMB!

JRB
Guest
JRB

This seems like a fair resolution to me. At least 48 months in prison is no cakewalk and a felony conviction has serious consequences that will follow him for the rest of his life. He did not intend to kill anyone, but callously and recklessly disregarded the safety of others and as a result a young woman died. There is a moral and legal distinction between intentional conduct and reckless disregard and his sentence reflects that.

I for one am not willing to write off the rest of someone’s life for a non-intentional homicide by a first-time offender. After he’s done his time, he should be given an opportunity to make something of his life. Hopefully for our sakes and his, he makes the most of it.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Reduced sentenced for sharing info on where and how much he was served? Lame. He gets less jail time for ratting on a server who did not put him behind the wheel. I fully disapprove.

AM
Guest
AM

Why is it that everyone puts all the blame to one person without knowing all of the true facts and only listening to what the media has said, which has not been all true. Yes driving after two glasses of wine, not smashed, just barely over the limit is breaking the law, but how many people have done time and time again and many not know they are even over the limit. Yes speeding was also wrong but again how many have broke that law too, I see it everyday on all types of roads day and night. Does anyone blame her for breaking the law by jaywalking across a 4 lane road at 10:45 at night in dark clothes, not in a crosswalk, not in the first lane, but actually in the middle lane walking her bike?

marshmallow
Guest
marshmallow

The fact he was driving a high powered Subaru flamboyantly stickered up as a racer didn’t help. I’ve had these rally wannabes run up my bumper(mostly impreza STI’s and WRX’s, sometimes Evo’s), and I’ve raced rallycross and dirt rallies in my Toyotas. Doesn’t take much skill to hammer on an all wheel drive, 300 hp rally monster — does to stop though.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Does anyone blame her for breaking the law by jaywalking across a 4 lane road at 10:45 at night in dark clothes, not in a crosswalk, not in the first lane, but actually in the middle lane walking her bike?” AM

Are you saying she was jaywalking? In comments to past bikeportland stories about this incident, people have stated that the nearest crosswalk was a quarter mile from where she was crossing. In other words, there was no crosswalk signal near to where she was crossing Barbur, so she wasn’t jaywalking.

“…but actually in the middle lane walking her bike?” AM

Not clear what you’re trying to say here. Reports are, that she was trying to cross Barbur, not walk with the road in the middle lane.

Check out this excerpt from the following bikeportland story(Malakai was one of Pruitt’s passengers.) http://bikeportland.org/2010/12/20/vigil-brings-light-to-tragic-stretch-of-barbur-blvd-44832

“…”What do you think?!” Pruitt allegedly asked Malakai as they gained speed with each block, “Now it’s not a matter of skill,” Malakai replied, “It’s a matter of luck.” Those were the last words spoken… just before Pruitt’s luck ran out.

According to Malakai, he recalls seeing Burke trying to cross the street. Pruitt, he says, tried to swerve around her, but his speed was simply too fast for either person to avoid the collision. …”

esther c
Guest
esther c

Maybe the length of sentence is all relative. IF we lived in a society where we didn’t believe in locking up such a large percentage of our young male population, 4 years would seem more than adequate. But when we give people life sentences for shop lifting under three strikes laws in some jurisdictions 4 years seems like a slap on the wrist.

Roger Averbeck
Guest
Roger Averbeck

When Caleb gets out of prison, I would be glad to volunteer to assist in teaching him safe cycling skills and accompany him on some rides to understand the challenges of riding between downtown Portland and his home in Lake Oswego.