As we debate infrastructure and policy solutions that could make places like the St. Johns Bridge safer to use, we should not lose sight of the fact that what we’re dealing with here is a systemic problem.
Our system fails us because it lets dangerous people operate dangerous vehicles on dangerous roads. Joel Schrantz, the man who was unable to control his vehicle before he struck and killed Mitch York on Saturday, is just the latest in a long line of criminals who were allowed to drive when they had no business being anywhere near a steering wheel.
At least not in a civilized society.
Schrantz is a man who, according to The Oregonian, has around 30-40 previous traffic violations going back over 20 years. He was driving a vehicle that was in a bad state of repair and his license was suspended. It has been reported that “chuckled” about his poor driving record to the police officer who responded to the scene.
This man is a clear and present danger to other road users and he’s making a mockery of our obviously inadequate driving regulations.
After York’s death we got an email from another victim of Schrantz. The man who contacted us said Schrantz drove into him and then tried to flee the scene in May 2014. Fortunately the victim got photos and police were able to catch him. Not that it mattered of course, because Schrantz continued to drive. “It frustrates me that guys like this get away with light sentences,” our reader shared, “he needs to be locked up for a long time.” Our reader now wants to testify about his experiences in Schrantz’s new trial.
Speaking of which, Schrantz appeared in court ealier this week on a preliminary charge of criminally negligent homicide. A judge set his bail at just $20,000 and he has since paid 10 percent of that — just $2,000 — in order to leave custody.
We’ve confirmed Schrantz is out of custody because a neighbor of his who lives near him in St. Johns got in touch with us. “The fact that he’s now out walking around is just outrageous and very upsetting,” the neighbor told us via email. “This is a failure of the judicial system!”
We contacted the Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney assigned to this case, Elisabeth Waner. She confirmed that Schrantz did indeed bail out. Waner said the bail amount isn’t up to her office, it’s set by the judge and based on a presumptive, statutory amount according to the charge (criminally negligent homicide, a Class B Felony in Oregon).
Schrantz will appear before a grand jury tomorrow and DA Waner will present her case against him. An indictment will follow and there’s a preliminary hearing scheduled for November 15th where Schrantz will present his plea.
The ride to remember Mitch York and protest this broken system is tonight at 6:00. It meets in Cathedral Park in St. Johns. More details here.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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Just can’t make stuff like this up.
End driver privilege.
Too many people drive for sport. Fishtailing or drifting isn’t harmless fun, it’s pushing you vehicle past your ability to control it. Fast and the furious wannabees
“He needs to be locked up for a long time.”
Yeah. Agreed. The problem is, no money, no jail space. Americans want to lock ’em up, but don’t want to pay for it. The poor can’t pay. What remains of the middle class is tapped out. The rich refuse to pay. So there you go.
We’re too busy getting nickel and dimed with junk like the Arts Tax to pay for anything truly useful.
That’s right. The arts tax explains everything about this situation.
Plenty of space, problem is we are using it for non violent drug offenders instead of violent criminals like this guy.
Perhaps it’s time to “stalk” Mr. Schrantz. GPS trackers are available that will report the whereabouts of his car (yes, I’m assuming he will have a car in short order based on his past behavior). Every time he drives someone could call 911 to get him re-arrested. At some point his saga might even shame our legislators into filling the holes in our laws to prevent unlicensed dangerous people from driving on our roadways.
Might be tougher than you think…from reading the Oregonian coverage (great research by the way – this time) this driver seems to practice the “Solo Cup” (or Dixie Cup, etc) method of vehicle ownership…use it and then dispose of it…buy a car way cheap and then drive them into the ground [or into other cars or other ____] and then move on to the next car [and future collision] and repeat…if I understand the press’ description of his MV operator’s history.
If you can’t (or wont) insure it, why spend more than $500 on it?
I dont think vigilantism is good. We need to fix the ridiculous system we have created not mob-hunt unconvicted people
a vigilante is somebody enforcing without authority…
we have the authority to report illegal and dangerous drivers…
nothing vigilante about doing your part in society…
It would not actually be that hard to ‘watch’ dangerous drivers. Create a database of ‘bad actors’, with address and picture. Then, put out request for interested neighbors to just drive or walk by periodically (weekly), especially place of employment, to see if he/she is operating a motor vehicle illegally. Wouldn’t be perfect, but would catch a significant % or scofflaws. It would be nice if government had resources to do this, but that’s not going to happen. Just had another thought; you could probably find a neighbor who would be willing to install a CCTV pointed at the person’s house.
Stalking could be considered a crime.
I doubt this guy goes looking for the police very often.
Just curious – since he’s out, is he also driving ? Did his car get impounded? Is anything at all being done to ensure that he is not behind the wheel as we speak?
I am sure he learned his lesson this time and is taking transit.
Sarcasmometers are not cheap, and mine just embedded shrapnel in my leg when it exploded. Watch where you point that wit next time.
It is not that hard to make it very hard for those without a license to continue to drive.
1) Make impounding of vehicle part of the bail.
2) Confiscate vehicles driven by anyone with a suspended or revoked license. (not their car – too bad, you shouldn’t lend a car to someone who should not drive)
3) Ban the sale (or lending) of vehicles to unlicensed individuals.
Sure the lawyers and excuse writers will come up with all kinds of reasons why “this is not fair”, but ask the families about what is fair. The way it is now, you can post bail before you have sobered up and drive away in the same car you were busted in, and you can drive away with yet another citation for driving while suspended.
Does anyone know what happened to Abdulrahman Noorah. After the Saudi Arabia consulate posted bail, did he hop a plane for the homeland and escape all responsibility?
Last I heard he was under house arrest.
“House arrest” has provisions for going about your business, like to work or doctor. It doesn’t mean confinement in any meaningful way.
$2000???? And there’s no question in my mind that he’ll be driving just as soon as he gets anywhere near a car. With his record, why would we think otherwise? This is sickening.
I lost a friend to an unlicensed driver some years ago. He killed my friend and all he got was a traffic ticket for driving without a license. It’s just not right.
A retired OSP officer once told me the best way to get away with murder is use an automobile. The only stipulation being you must be sober and stay at the scene of the “accident”. He told me just saying something like “He came out of nowhere”, and “I never saw him” were good enough excuses for killing someone with your car 99% of the time.
I am starting to believe him, now, unfortunately.
It can be a real challenge to engineer a murder using this method. Sure it sounds easy, but getting the opportunity and timing it right is really tricky, and the outcome is a bit unpredictable. Uh…. not that I’ve tried or anything.
…bad Kitty…bad Kitty…
Kitty, embrace your inner hunter…do not be ashamed, as we vulnerable PDX area roadway users need a new superhero…[que song: ‘We Need a Hero’…with lyrics updated to ‘woman’.]
…as Batman, Superman, etc. all seem preoccupied making movies or theme parks these days and Wonder Woman is out hanging’ with the UN in NYC.
Think of it…There could be a big “Cat Light” placed on top of Big Pink to summon you (or you could be living’ large up in it)…along with your faithful team of Sprockets…or Zoobombers, Rose City roller derby jammers…
Here we sit on the razor’s edge of semantics; where is the line between intent to cause harm and obvious irresponsibility which knowingly endangers others’ lives?
Insane. The world to cruel.
If recent addresses are correct, he lives in the Portsmouth neighborhood.
Be careful out there.
Is justice not worth more than $2,000?
Perhaps a car was put up as collateral…hopefully not the impounded truck…for the sake of the bail bond sales person…
“Justice” hasn’t happened yet. What we have is someone accused of using terribly bad judgement that resulted in someone’s death, but until there is a trial (or a guilty plea), we won’t have “justice”. The $20K is not a fine or a punishment, but a surety that he will show up at trial. (Yes, I know he only paid $2K; a company was willing to essentially loan him the rest.)
I don’t like the concept of “doing justice” as that suggests vengeance, which I think is a fault, not an attribute, of our justice system. That said, if the only way to keep this guy from driving again is to lock him up, then I would do so without hesitation.
In Oregon only 10 % of bail is paid, no bail bondsman required. I don’t believe we even have bail bond companies here.
What? Really? That makes no sense!
Ok, here’s some history:
If mr Schrantz gets another car, I certainly hope no vandals find it and do terrible illegal things to it. That just would ‘t be right.
Part of the bail process for this kind of case should require that the accused be placed under house arrest with a GPS monitoring system attached to their person. They leave home for any reason, they damn well better have a good reason for it (say the house is on fire, or a gas leak), otherwise, bail is forfeited, and their next stop is jail until such a time as their trial. Any movement over walking speed would also trigger them to be jailed, except within sanctioned vehicles for transportation to and from their court appointments.
I’ve got a few ideas for where they could attach the monitor…
Are you saying that this is the process normally used in a case like this, or that it should be?
If he’s under house arrest, the process makes some sense. If he’s free to walk around and drive, it’s nuts.
While I prefer that people such as this should be kept in jail, if a judge opts to let them out (judges do stupid things too) there should be every effort to keep the accused off of our streets until justice is served.
Have you been giving Rich ideas?
Unless he had $2,000.00 readily available, someone else posted his bail. They paid the $2,000.00 bond premium and pledged the balance in the event he fails to appear. And unless he is found innocent at trial, that party will not get their money back (unless he repays them). Why? As a general rule Oregon courts apply the money posted as bail towards any fines that need to be paid. Likewise, if he fails to appear at any time, the bail is forfeit, and whoever posted the bail premium is out not only that, but the remaining balance of the bail.
Driving ought to be a privilege that gets revoked when a driver can’t handle that privilege. Driver licenses should be revoked temporarily or permanently for dangerous activities. In cases where a driver continues to drive after a revoked license, they should lose the right to register or own a vehicle. If you can’t drive a car safely, taking a bus or biking instead should be what’s expected.
I understand that their are good reasons for a criminal justice not to be harsh, but if we viewed driving as just one transportation option, instead of THE option, we could have much higher safety expectations of a more limited number of drivers.
This is definitely a hole in Oregon’s homicide laws. Although in my book this guy’s actions make him a murderer, it appears Oregon’s murder statute requires intent to kill the specific victim.
Barring that, we have:
– Manslaughter I (“committed recklessly under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life”), a Class A felony.
– Manslaughter II, which sets a lower standard of the act being committed “recklessly”, but like Criminally Negligent Homicide is also a Class B felony.
– Aggravated Vehicular Homicide, a Class A felony, which requires both that the culprit was intoxicated and was responsible for a prior crime involving a motor vehicle.
So now I see what everyone’s been talking about: there is no Vehicular Homicide statute in Oregon, only Aggravated V.H., which only applies to cases even more egregious than this.
It is a systemic problem:
– We need a basic Vehicular Homicide statute.
– I would further propose that Aggravated V.H. be expanded to include other egregious cases where someone who’s already been told by the law not to drive continues to do so and kills someone.
– Even when no one is killed, the law needs sharper teeth to keep these drivers off the roads. When I got hit by an unlicensed driver a few years ago, I was stunned to learn that driving without a license is NOT A CRIME in Oregon. It’s just a violation. Unlicensed drivers who get caught driving need to face some consequences even if they haven’t hurt anyone. Yet.
keep in mind GlowBoy that the effort to create a new charge of criminal negligence with a vehicle was based around cases where the person didn’t die but was given serious, life-altering injuries.
when someone is killed, the law usually works better.
Allan Brettman of the Oregonian adds to this discussion with his update from ODoT [and local transportation resources] on how St Johns Bridge lane configuration is what it is today…a brief of sorts…
Accused usually don’t appear before a grand jury. The grand jury sits in the courthouse and the DAs bring cases and proposed felony charges to the grand jury asking for approval on those charges.
It would be be a rare thing for someone accused of these charges to want to speak to the very people who can okay the charges.
I sat on the Multnomah Cty. grand jury for a month back in 2014. It was a fantastic experience.
There are many laws on the books governing the operation of motor vehicles in the State of Oregon. There are laws requiring insurance, laws on safe use of roads, laws regarding use of vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What is lacking is certain enforcement.
The State provides the legal structure for addressing failure to comply with traffic code. My preferred choice of response would to be to schedule a little time with your State Representative.
I would ask why an individual such as Mr Schrantz can be cited for operating a car under Suspension so many times and still not be sanctioned.
The increasing number of hit and runs certainly has some root in failure to enforce insurance requirements. My nieces husband was hit earlier this week by a hit on run driver while he was riding on 82nd and Woodstock. This literally hits close to home.
I believe we sometimes operate with the notion that drivers needs are diametrically opposed to cyclists or pedestrians. In reality, I believe the safety of the community is predicated on enforcement and consequences actually being applied to violators of the motor vehicle code.
Again, pick up your phone, write an email, visit the House website and click on a link.. https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/house/Pages/RepresentativesAll.aspx
If removing unsafe cars and unsafe drivers adds only incremental improvement to the safety of the road, its a start
With his record, it doesn’t sound like a good idea to let this guy out on bail. I wonder what he does next. Who put up the money for bail. Maybe doesn’t seem like a lot to some of you reading here, but for many people, 2K isn’t exactly pocket money.
What is his story?. Does he really not care enough about other people to try drive in at least a somewhat responsible manner? I’ve often wondered about elements associated with the concept of what constitutes fitness to drive. A determination of fitness to drive is required for the issuance of a license to drive, but ‘the bar’, so to speak, is very low.
All an applicant need do, is know some of the rules of the road, be able to see and hear, and show they can physically operate a motor according to the rules of the road. Just like that, they get their license. Especially when it’s with someone having a driving record similar to Joel Schrantz’s, somebody besides me must be wondering what’s going on with such persons, psychologically.
Perhaps he is “self-insured”, by setting aside the standard 10% bail bond money…from the money he saves on car purchases…
Also the money he saves not paying car insurance. With his driving record, that’s probably saved in about 9 months or a year.
While not pocket money, it is also not much, nor hard to come up with. There are businesses out there that will loan you the money so you can get out of jail.
I can’t even express how angry this makes me. How sad for victims and future victims everywhere.
Unbelievable that a driver can murder someone and be out of jail for only $2,000. The judge should have denied bail. Even if we had to release a drug dealer, this guy deserves to be in jail and in prison for a long, long time.
This is outrageous! I can see why certain factions of our society have completely given up on the rule of law (see: the Bundy Bros and Guns Rights people). We need a top to bottom review and reform of our justice system.
Who was responsible for the decision to release him on $2k? He was being held on suspicion of killing someone. That is less than my property tax!
The judge, which goes to the importance of voting. While the presidential election has all the glamour, it’s the local elections that impact us on a daily basis. Look at your ballot and tell me how many judges who are running are doing so unopposed. Do you research these folks of just colour in the circle next to their name because there isn’t another choice? Do you consider how a sitting Governor appoints judges as part of your criteria? The police just take them in it’s the rest of the system DA and judges that make the decisions to prosecute and to turn them back onto the streets.
“…Waner said the bail amount isn’t up to her office, it’s set by the judge and based on a presumptive, statutory amount according to the charge (criminally negligent homicide, a Class B Felony in Oregon). …” bikeportland
Who might this judge be, and would he be willing to share his thoughts on the seriousness of Schrantz’s police record as it factors into his determination of the bail amount, and any accompanying conditions that may have went along with it?
Why are sober driving laws lax? Because politcians are worried some white soccer mom will end up behind bars bease she “made one little mistake” and killed someone.
Whit soccer mom’s are a formidable group.
you can bet that if motor vehicles were primarily driven by minorities that we’d have a lot of really strict laws regarding their operation and harsh penalties for breaking them…
Someone needs to stop this guy before he kills again.
I don’t believe in being a vigilante. But if you see this guy driving – call 911! And then VOTE (4 more days). And, please, be as careful as you can when riding your bike.
Wow. Secret Police much?
There are a *lot* of drivers like Schrantz. Tracking even a small percentage of them would be impractical even assuming that the info in an anonymously sourced database was reliable.
I doubt you’d find a neighbor who would run such a camera — aiming a camera at someone else’s house is seriously weird and asking for trouble. It’s not like living by a domicile where people who do very concerning things is rare in Portland.
I think that this discussion about lax laws should concern everyone using the road, whether by bike, car or feet. I am not just concerned about my own safety but also about the safety of my mother-in-law who only drives. With this history, it is just a matter of time that this person would injure or kill another person driving a car. Let’s not forget that most people killed in accidents caused by people driving a car are other people driving a car. I think we can build a majority by emphasizing that such dangerous drivers are dangerous to everyone, and therefore should not be allowed to drive a car.
The often not discussed factor of Vision Zero, better adjudication.
Melanie Souza of San Jose, you continue to drive – legally even – but we will not forget that you killed our friend and neighbor Stan Wicka while texting and didn’t even stop because you were late meeting your friends.
I’d bet everything I had that he’s behind the wheel of a car, somehow, today… right now. Might even be driving over the St. John’s bridge.
Hope that makes everyone feel safe knowing that.
Does anyone know if Abdulrahman Noorah is still in the country?
Lawmakers and police view us as hapless roadkill even before the fact, hey that’s really cool! There should be a disclaimer every time Portland is mentioned as the #1 Cycling City in the US….”as long as you can stay alive”.
JM, any update on what happened with the DA and the grand jury?