Weekender Ride

42 month sentence for man who killed Mitch York on the St. Johns Bridge

Posted by on May 18th, 2017 at 11:05 am

Images from the sentencing hearing for Joel Schrantz. Top: Jenni York and her daughter Carly York hug after the hearing; Judge Eric Bloch. Bottom: defendant Joel Schrantz.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Joel Schrantz was sentenced to 42 months in jail yesterday for his role in the death of Mitch York.

Schrantz, 43, is the man who failed to control his Toyota 4-Runner and hit York while driving onto the St. Johns Bridge on October 29th, 2016. York was waiting for a green light in the left-turn lane prior to the collision. The 55-year old resident of northeast Portland, who was on his way to one of his regular rides in the west hills, died at the scene.

“Mr. Schrantz has not had a valid driver’s license since 1992. He has not had the right to drive for a quarter of a century — but a valid driver’s license has never mattered to Mr. Schrantz.”
— Elizabeth Waner, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney

Before the hearing I met the woman who sat with York in his final moments. Chrystal Nelson, a licensed practical nurse, just happened to drive by shortly after the collision. “I knew to bolt up there. He didn’t have a pulse, but I just held his hand. No one should have to die alone.” Since that night Nelson has become friends with Jenni York, Mitch’s widow. On Mother’s Day they met and walked to the site of the collision to place flowers on York’s ghost bike. Six months earlier, hundreds of people rolled and walked onto the bridge during a memorial ride.

At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Nelson and York, along with about a dozen other friends, family and fellow riders who showed up to support them, listened as Multnomah County Judge Eric Bloch made his final judgment in the case. Before listening to statements from attorneys and family members on both sides, Bloch explained that Schrantz’s attorney Downing Bethune and Multnomah County Deputy DA Elizabeth Waner had negotiated a plea deal. Instead of the initial manslaughter charge, which carries a minimum 75-month sentence and a $250,000 fine, Schrantz pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. For that plea his sentence was nearly cut in half and the York family avoided an emotionally-draining jury trial while receiving the peace of mind that comes with a public admission of guilt.

As per the negotiated plea deal, Judge Bloch had a sentencing parameter of 36 to 48 months. Before making his decision, he heard DA Waner paint a picture of Schrantz as a selfish and dangerous man who deserves no leniency. Bloch also heard Bethune explain that his client was not a criminal, and that he was simply doing his best to provide for his family.

The courtroom was emotional throughout the 90-minute hearing. Schrantz’s wife, sitting directly behind him, sobbed profusely and Schrantz would frequently turn around to console her. Schrantz himself was also in tears for much of the hearing. But DA Waner was unmoved in making her case against him.

“Mr. Schrantz has not had a valid driver’s license since 1992,” Waner told Judge Bloch. “He has not had the right to drive for a quarter of a century — but a valid driver’s license has never mattered to Mr. Schrantz.”

Waner pointed out that Schrantz’s driving record is littered with at least 40 tickets for driving uninsured and without a license (he was also convicted for hit-and-run in 2015). At the scene of the collision in October, he reportedly told police officers he knew it was relatively easy to get a new license and that it was “on his to-do list.”

Here’s more from DA Waner’s presentation:

“But even with this knowledge of how easy it was to get a driver’s license… it was still easier for him to put his own selfish desires and needs, rather than take any steps towards responsible driving. It was just easier for Mr. Schrantz to continue to accrue driving while suspended tickets. Mr. Schrantz told police that driving while suspended tickets were $1,000 a pop. It was just easier to allow his cars to get impounded than to pay the ticket for the towing fee. Mr. Schr also found it was easier and cheaper to buy a used vehicle for $500 and drive that car around until the next time he was caught.

And that was exactly that course of events that led to take the life of Mitchell York. He had purchased the 4-Runner for around $500, a 4-Runner with over 300,000 miles on it and Mr. Schrantz didn’t want to pony up the money to fix the steering rod or to pay for new tires. Mr. Schrantz knew that the tires were bad, they were balding on the rear. And in fact he said his wife had warned him the car was dangerous. That he needed to stop driving the 4-Runner around because they’d been sliding around corners all the time in the wet weather. Mr. Schrantz knew the tires were bad, he new the car had been sliding, but he decided to drive anyway. And it was this decision that cost Mitchell York his life, and forever deprived an entire family of a loving husband, brother, and father.”


Sentencing hearing in Mitch York case-1.jpg

Jenni York

Waner then relayed a startling story. At a recent hearing for this case a judge asked Waner for more information about Schrantz’s 2015 hit-and-run conviction. It turned out it was the same judge who sentenced Schrantz for that offense two years ago. Waner described what happened next:

“At one point during the hearing, Judge Marshall turned to Mr. Schrantz and asked him directly if he remembered what they’d talked about at that hearing in 2015. Mr. Schrantz nodded yes. Judge Marshall then informed everyone in the court that he had warned Mr. Schrantz on that day that he needed to stop driving or he was going to kill someone. But of course he did not stop driving and now Mitchell York and his family have paid the ultimate price.”

“This was not an accident. It was his fault… the result of a lifetime pattern of negligence and recklessnesss.”
— Jenni York

Waner requested the maximum sentence for Schrantz, saying,

“In order to spare the lives of every person on the road that drives in this community, every person that rides a bicycle in this community, every pedestrian that uses the roads in this community, it is imperative that Mr. Schrantz receives a loud and clear message that he has failed to hear so many times before: That he should never drive again.”

Waner then read letters from Mitch York’s sister and daughter. At one point Waner turned directly toward Schrantz as she read this passage a letter by York’s 27-year-old daughter Carly: “You took someone’s life away. Every event in my life is now split into before and after… You are not the victim here. I am and my family is.”

Jenni York was married to Mitch for 37 years. She read a prepared statement and shared how the loss of her husband impacted her life. She also expressed outrage at Schrantz’s behavior at the scene: “What kind of a person collides with a cyclist and then, seeing him bleeding profusely, makes no attempt to help? Someone who sees himself as a perpetual victim. Someone who has never faced consequences for his reckless behaviors.”

“This was not an accident,” York continued. “It was his fault… the result of a lifetime pattern of negligence and recklessnesss.”

Given a chance to share Schrantz’s side of the case, attorney Downing Bethune disputed the reporting about his clients actions at the scene. He also told Judge Bloch that Schrantz simply accelerated too quickly and lost traction. “A very momentary lapse of measurement is what made him fishtail.”

Bethune also, quite audaciously given the facts surrounding this case, blamed Mitch York for what happened. Quoting from a crash analysis he commissioned from a retired Oregon State Police officer, Bethune said, “I’m not criticizing Mr. York in any way at all, but our investigation showed that he was further over in the lane than he should have been… My client accelerated too quickly and over-corrected and swung into that lane. Had Mr. York been where the law requires him to be, he probably would have surivived.”

Then Bethune read directly from the crash analysis report:

“Vehicle 1 was fish-tailing over an unknown distance approaching the cyclist. The cyclist should have had a few second warning. If the cyclist would have been properly positioned in the lane or would have taken evasive action, the impact may not have occurred. I consider the improper lane placement of the cyclist to be a contributing factor.”

At this point one man in the audience, who was holding a helmet and wearing bike gear, began sobbing and then walked out of the courtroom.

Bethune continued:

“Does this make Mr. York a bad guy? No. Is it right that he got killed? No. Of course it’s not and I’m not suggesting that. But what I am saying is that when we have vehicles that weigh tons and we’ve got a cyclist who weighs mere hundreds of pounds. Cyclists always use. It’s a dangerous game out there and cyclists lose every single time.”

Bethune went on to explain that he was an avid bicycle rider in his youth and even organized rides with the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club. “I’m very well aware of how dangerous it can be when cars and bicyclists share the road. And the fact is, we all have to share the road.”

Schrantz deserves mercy and a sentence of the minimum 36 months, Bethune argued, because he was trying to support his family and chose to “put a roof over his family’s head” instead of paying for things like tickets or a safer vehicle. He called the circumstances, “Just a fact of life we’re going to have to deal with as a society.”

Judge Bloch ultimately decided Schrantz deserves a 42 month sentence and a $125,000 fine. In his closing statement he said Schrantz created an “unreasonable risk” the day he hit Mitch York. “That unreasonable risk you created that day, might have gone unnoticed without consequences,” Bloch continued. “But on that day that unreasonable risk you created had a consequence. And the consequence was the death of a human being.”

Sentencing hearing in Mitch York case-6.jpg

Joel Schrantz saying goodbye to his wife moments before he was led out of the courtroom.

Bloch told Schrantz that he had lost the necessary “balance” between providing for his own family’s health and well-being while also respecting the safety needs of the greater community around him. He then said Schrantz should have been using mass transit instead of driving. “I know people who are in the building trades [Schrantz is a carpenter] who take their tools on the bus. They committed to strike that balance between their own well-being and their own desire to provide for the well-being of their family and the needs of a civilized society where people follow the rules… When that balance falls away, consequences occur.”

“You were warned Mr. Schrantz,” Bloch continued. “You were warned with every citation you were issued, with every admonition that a judge gave you… To put it bluntly, you are a bit hard-headed about this issue and so there has to be a clear message that from this point forward this behavior is not going to be tolerated or accepted or minimized by any judge.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Scott H May 18, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Thanks for covering this!

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  • Dan A May 18, 2017 at 11:22 am

    After his sentence is up, will he able to get a license?

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    • BB May 18, 2017 at 11:31 am

      Who cares? He’ll drive all he wants.

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      • Dan A May 18, 2017 at 2:23 pm

        Yes, but will he be able to do it legally? I care.

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        • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 9:07 pm

          Missing the point…. Don’t flip about it, you’ll only burn up your own brain. I hate this jackass as much as any one else. I live in the Johns, and have seen him often. He’s a real piece of work.

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          • Dan A May 18, 2017 at 9:25 pm

            Am I? This is a story on the sentencing of Joel Schrantz. I’d like to know if there are any provisions regarding his ability to drive when he is released.

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            • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 10:01 pm

              See, you missed it again. The provisions upon his past infractions didn’t stop him either. I suggest a Quaalude if you can find one. They always did me right.

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              • Dan A May 19, 2017 at 6:56 am

                I’m well aware of that. I’d still like the know the full details of his sentencing.

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    • Travis May 18, 2017 at 11:35 am

      Can we stop him from driving?

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      • Stephan May 18, 2017 at 12:01 pm

        Citing Eben Weiss from the “Sharpest Minds” article [1] that Jonathan covered a little while ago:

        “What needs to happen now is for road safety to enter the 21st century. It seems like every time I want to stream Game of Thrones on HBO GO, I’m asked to enter an activation code to prove I’m a subscriber. It’s like I’m launching a nuclear missile. Yet if I want to fire up my car—not quite a nuke but certainly a deadly weapon—I don’t have to prove a thing. My license could be expired or suspended or revoked or simply nonexistent. Same with my insurance policy. Why shouldn’t I have to prove my “account” as a driver is in good standing before I operate a motor vehicle on public roads? We need to start placing as much value on human lives as we do on George R.R. Martin’s intellectual property.”

        [1] https://www.outsideonline.com/2175521/bike-industrys-sharpest-minds-making-roads-safer-riders

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        • brian May 18, 2017 at 12:45 pm

          In Oregon we could easily stop selling gas to people with no license, unlicensed vehicle or no insurance

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  • jeff May 18, 2017 at 11:36 am

    screw him. glad he’s off the road for 3 years. its not long enough.

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  • disastronaut May 18, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I love that “I need to endanger everyone else’s lives on the road because I need to provide for my family” defense. Oh, and bonus points for the defense attorney trying to blame Mitch York for his own death. That’s pretty classy.

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  • mran1984 May 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

    This is not enough. Bethune has zero class and is not a cyclist in any form whatsoever. Mitch York deserved better than this. If only one can return from the grave to haunt this piece of garbage…

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    • 9watts May 18, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Not to mention that he argues just like wspob here.

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      • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 9:36 pm

        I’m not one to agree often with wsbob, and on the other hand you either. In fact over the years I’ve seen your opinions (that’s ultimately what all this fodder is from everyone) become more caustic and venomous. Long ago I enjoyed a bit of what you used to bring to the table. wsbob in my opinion is just here consistently offering his two cents with out much hoopla and rancor. In my mind, that isn’t arguing…that’s trying to have a discussion.

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        • wsbob May 20, 2017 at 7:16 pm

          monkeysee…thanks for your effort to clear the air.

          I’ve been reading this story and have posted a couple comments to it. Overall, the incident and the aftermath are an extremely bad situation that traffic conditions precipitously threaten to roughly replicate everyday on the roads and streets. The extremely careless road user isn’t too hard to pick out by the public overall, when their actions result in such a traumatic end to someone’s life.

          I’d like to read all of the crash analysis report that Schrantz’s, attorney Downing Bethune, commissioned from the retired OSP police officer. Particularly without a review of that report, and how the officer came to his conclusions therein, bethune’s statement:

          “…Had Mr. York been where the law requires him to be, he probably would have survived.”

          …seems a stretch, and maybe it was, but without looking at the whole report, I’d withhold coming to more of an opinion about what he said. The more important thing, is unlike us reading here, all other key parties involved in the trial…the DA, the judge, the jury members, the defendant Schrantz and the family of Mitch York, likely did read the crash analysis report. End result: Schrantz, too little too late…is finally off the road, for at least awhile.

          I feel bad for everyone connected with this situation. Someone like Schrantz? Many people want to think of him as just ‘the bad guy’. But, people have loved this person. They’ve hoped that he would get squared away and do better. For now, all that’s left for options, is just to warehouse him where for a few years, he can no longer harm the general public. Will this make him a better person for when he gets out?

          Mitch York: goes without saying, really, as far as I’m concerned. He was a better person, better family man, friend, better cyclist than I ever can realistically have hopes of being. I did not have the chance to know or meet him, and now thanks to the imperfect nature of human beings, I never will, nor will anyone else.

          Ride well Mitch York in your new place. Get well Joel Schrantz during your time off the road.

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      • Mike 2 May 19, 2017 at 10:31 am

        Smooth. You’re a real piece of work.

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      • Pete May 20, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        Many years ago I jokingly called wsbob “Bikeportland’s whipping boy”, because it was rare there was unanimous agreement with what he had to say. (After over a decade of reading and communicating with wsbob here I’m going to assume ‘he’ – sorry if I’m mistaken). What I do respect is the manner with which wsbob engages people he disagrees with (many times me), wsbob is not afraid to call people out respectfully as well as ask for further clarification, and I believe that we’ve learned from each other over the many times we’ve debated or discussed. It’s one of the things that keeps me on this forum, and wsbob does not deserve to be insulted for his style.

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  • encephalopath May 18, 2017 at 11:41 am

    What was all that business about improper lane position in the crash analysis?

    Were they suggesting he should have been riding in the gutter instead of on the sharrow? I’m not sure I understand what they are getting at there. I’m not sure the police do either.

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    • wsbob May 18, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      If you can get access the crash report analysis, check and see what the complete report says, because the excerpt in this story does not include a description of where the bike was thought to have been positioned in the lane.

      Not that lane position of the person riding, really could have been much of a factor with a motor vehicle in dangerously unsafe operating condition mechanically and in manner of operation. I don’t have personal experience driving them, but I tend to feel it may be very difficult to know how far a vehicle fishtailing on bald tires out of control will travel. With a wildly fishtailing vehicle, it’s not going to make a heck of a lot of difference whether the person is riding to the far right of the lane, or 4′-6′ over in the main lane.

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    • Gary B May 18, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      York was in the left turn lane, so there was another right turn lane to his right. There are no sharrows in that lane. So they’re suggesting he should have been positioned more to the right of the left lane while stopped and waiting for a signal?! Audacious is one word for it.

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  • rick May 18, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Driver’s liscense should never be issued again. On a note related to transportation in that area of the crash, I believe more TriMet service is needed to connect Hillsboro to North Portland via the St. John’s Bridge by using Cornelius Pass Road.

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  • Todd Hudson May 18, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Did anyone read his apology statement that was published in another media article? He gave an “eff u” non-apology that was all about him and a little pity for his victim.

    “You truly don’t know what I went through. I’ve cried for you. I’ve cried for your husband. I’ve cried for him very much. …I’m sorry that this happened for you and me. But for you.”

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    • Monkeysee May 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

      I just tried to listen to his statement to the victims family online. For certain it is an emotionally charged event.
      My take isn’t quite the same as yours,or others here.
      In the recording I heard he referenced a family member telling him he is “guilty in the eyes of God”. He seems to understand this, and expresses his shame.
      I feel he has lousy oratorical skills for certain, but he does by my observation acknowledge the pain of the victims family first.
      That doesn’t absolve him of anything, I’m just pointing it out that he doesn’t mention himself first in any regard other than his mistakes….. And he has those in spades.
      If I were in his shoes, I also would be hard pressed to articulate with accuracy.

      I clearly have no respect for Mr. Schwantz, and as a neighboring resident of St.Johns I’ve been aware of him for quite a while.
      So… I’m not excusing anything, I just don’t understand what you expect of him, really.
      He’s a train wreck of a human. Three and a half years is going to give him time to reflect .

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  • Stephan May 18, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    It is nice to see a judge being relatively strict here but he should not have been able to get that truck and ride it to begin with. I’d like to see a judge being self-critical about how the justice system fails to provide safety here. Schrantz is just an egregious example of how one can game the system, because you can just accumulate ticket after ticket without any further consequences than having to pay for them. It is clear that someone with that many tickets is a serious danger to other people using the road, whether they are walking, biking or driving. It is striking to see how often people causing a serious or fatal traffic crash have a suspended license. These people should at the very minimum receive increasingly high penalties, and really should not be able to drive anymore.

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  • John Lascurettes May 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    While I’m happy with the outcome, actual jail time, let’s face the truth that Schrantz probably only plead out to the lesser charge because he couldn’t afford an expensive lawyer.

    Whatever happened to the guy that did the hit and run in his Porsche near the Ross Island bridge?

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      • John Lascurettes May 18, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        So, an out-of-court settlement and no criminal charges. My assumptions are vindicated.

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        • todd boulanger May 19, 2017 at 3:21 pm

          There is a lot of financial pressure on those (bicyclists and pedestrians without PIP coverage) injured by motor vehicles to settle sooner than later…it can be years of waiting for a court case resolution and any payout. And going to a jury trial is no guarantee of a pro cyclist outcome…as many jurors see them selves are drivers first before being a cyclist (or pedestrian).

          The current legal and enforcement system rewards those with the resources to wait the longest…cyclists and pedestrians are even more exposed if they do not have an insurance company fighting for them…all of these issues undermines Vision Zero outcomes.

          [In a recent experience – the $$$ meter can start within minutes with the $1,500 ambulance ride…then about a $1000 for basic ER inspection (no meds or broken bones)…then loss of work income and period of recovery…further surgery or worse can add another decimal point to the above costs…]

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          • John Lascurettes May 22, 2017 at 9:38 am

            Oh, it’s a hardship on working stiffs even with PIP coverage. An insurance company is also going to often look to a fast resolution too as time equals money for them as well.

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  • Hazel May 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    I was at the hearing yesterday and am completely floored by the victim blaming that the defense attorney did. His statement that Mitch legally should have been further to the right isn’t even true. It took everything in my power to not throw something at him.

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  • Trikeguy May 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    It’s unfathomable to me that the judge showed any leniency – why not the entire 48months. What mitigating testimony possibly excuses that? Victim blaming BS combined with the usual rationalizations. Bloch deserves no praise in this.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 18, 2017 at 12:19 pm


      I think Judge Bloch appreciated that Schrantz stood up, looked at the York family, and made an emotional apology. That was part of it I’m sure.

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      • Chris I May 21, 2017 at 6:19 am

        Of course he did. It’s easy when you’re a sociopath.

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    • jeff May 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      probably some time served…

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth May 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    Defense Counsel’s statement that the victim should have been further over in the lane is ridiculous. A cyclist is entitle to use the full lane if there is no bike lane. Personally, I dislike riding or driving on the St John’s Bridge, I consider it dangerous:
    – It is a truck route and motorists routinely drive 10 mph or more above the posted 35 mph speed limit.
    – The road surface is frequently littered with debris
    – There is no protection for either cyclists or pedestrians

    ODOT really need to build a bridge further downstream to service the freight terminals in North Portland. A new bridge would take truck traffic off the bridge and the residential streets of North Portland. If there were no truck traffic, the bridge could be reclassified as a city/county road rather than a state highway, then PBOT could reduce the bridge to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and install protected cycle lanes and pedestrian sidewalks.

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    • encephalopath May 18, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      That would make St. Johns a nicer place to live too.

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      • Stephen Keller May 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        The St. Johns Bridge should be two lanes with plazas and coffee kiosks and planters and places to cycle and stroll amiably.

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        • Stephen Keller May 18, 2017 at 1:40 pm

          I should say, two narrow lanes.

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  • John Lascurettes May 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    What is this “improper” lane placement that they mention York had taken. Wasn’t he waiting at a red light in the left lane because he was waiting to make a left turn? That is exactly the proper placement. Also, unless he was over or on the yellow line, what difference does his placement make if Schrantz is the one that came across it? Grrrr. I’m so angry about that logical fallacy and victim blaming.

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    • John Lascurettes May 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

      God, and it was even followed with, “I ride bikes too.” FFS.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 18, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Yes it’s a very preposterous claim to make. Given that Mitch was an experienced rider I HIGHLY DOUBT he was over the yellow centerline while waiting for the light — especially in that relatively dangerous location. The lawyer was grasping at straws and made an immoral decision to paint a dead man in a negative light solely to try and help his hapless client. It’s really too bad Judge Bloch didn’t call him out for this BS.

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      • Todd Hudson May 18, 2017 at 1:36 pm

        It’s unfair to call the defense counsel immoral when she is obligated to represent the wishes of their client (unless the def is deemed insane or asks them to do something unethical/illegal). They can advise and encourage….but if Schrantz said “show how the cyclist is at fault” she’s obligated to do that. There’s a reason why a criminal defense lawyer has to be of the Saul Goodman persona

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        • 9watts May 18, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          “but if Schrantz said ‘show how the cyclist is at fault’ she’s obligated to do that.”

          You sure about that? Even if he wasn’t? That sounds like lying, which I know is becoming more common and accepted every day but still….

          If Schrantz said ‘show how the cyclist attacked me?’ is she obligated to do that too?

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          • Gary B May 18, 2017 at 2:17 pm

            The attorney had an “expert” report suggesting a contributing factor. The attorney was ethically and legally obligated to present it.

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            • Todd Hudson May 18, 2017 at 4:41 pm

              ….and you can find an “expert” to write an expert report on pretty much anything you want. Want an expert report that claims asbestos is good for you and talking to people in internet comments sections causes cancer? There’s an expert out there for that.

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          • JRB May 18, 2017 at 4:51 pm

            A defense attorney cannot knowingly perpetrate a fraud or facilitate perjury, but if his or her client says, “he was over the double yellow line” and there isn’t incontrovertible proof otherwise, they have to bring that up in their client’s defense. Their job and professional responsibility, like all attorneys, is to represent the best interests of their clients within the confines of the law. They do not have any responsibility and in fact would be committing malpractice if they put some notion of “justice” or “fairness” ahead of the interests of their client. That’s for judges and juries to sort out.

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        • Tim May 22, 2017 at 5:45 pm

          It is perfectly reasonable to call out a layer doing their job as immoral. Morals and their job have nothing in common, or hit men would be moral for just doing their job.

          Some of us live with a code of ethics that requires us to put the health and safety of the public first, not so for lawyers, they put the interest of their client above the truth, justice and safety of the public.

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      • George Dorn May 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm

        Let’s not take it out on his lawyer. He’s doing his job. Lawyers are obligated to make whatever defense they think will be most effective. Failure to do so can be grounds for disbarment. They don’t have to mean it or even believe it themselves.

        The DA, however, had an exceptionally good case here and probably shouldn’t have accepted the plea bargain. This is an ideal “throw the book at him” case, one to strike fear into people driving illegally. I’m guessing the plea deal only happened to save the expense of the trial.

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        • Dan A May 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

          That said, I don’t know for sure that a jury of his peers (ie other drivers) would do the right thing.

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          • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm

            Morality and ethical judgement isn’t mutually exclusive to cyclists, and devoid in the heats and minds of all motorists. Do you realize how silly your statement sounds?

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            • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 9:19 pm


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              • Dan A May 18, 2017 at 9:28 pm

                Interesting strawman you’ve constructed.

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          • Monkeysee May 18, 2017 at 9:41 pm

            How? Elaborate please! I’m so waiting.

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            • Dan A May 19, 2017 at 7:02 am

              I have to assume you don’t follow these court cases very closely. It’s hard to get a judge to make a conviction when a driver is at fault. I don’t trust a jury of 12 drivers to be able to escape their own windshield bias.

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            • Monkeysee May 19, 2017 at 9:51 am

              Well, this judge just put a man away.
              Conjecture over a fictional jury of peers based on the notion that driving cars makes them in accord to protect their club membership is ridiculous. I’m done here.

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              • Dan A May 19, 2017 at 12:34 pm

                “If you like that risk, then accept the chances.”

                “You can’t change the laws of the universe just because you decide to ride on highly trafficked roads. It’s just a matter of time before the odds go against you on your bike.”

                “Anyone who rides across those bridges is an idiot. Sorry he died, but hope he did not breed.”

                “The point clearly made is that just because a pedestrian or cyclist has a RIGHT to do something per Oregon Law, doesn’t mean they should. Yes, cyclist have the right to ride in the road, and pedestrians can also walk in the road if there is no dedicated sidewalk…but unless you want to end up good and dead, you need to use common sense. “

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          • Justin M May 19, 2017 at 1:11 pm

            I agree with you Dan. Motorists love to hate cyclists. I can see a jury siding with the driver. I would use as a reference the history of white people being acquitted of 100% of crimes against people of color during reconstruction in the south if it didn’t making it seem like I was equating the situations.

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            • Dan A May 19, 2017 at 1:20 pm

              This case in itself is an outlier, but only because Schrantz has had SO MANY prior citations, and a previous hit & run conviction. What he has done is beyond what most folks can relate to or forgive, unlike most of the vehicular manslaughter charges we see here.

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      • Edward May 18, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        You’ve got it backwards. A defense attorney has a moral obligation to do everything he can for his client. The defense attorney is morally obligated to draw attention to anything and everything that could be used to mitigate the case. That includes pointing out any blame a victim might bear.

        Whether or not we as a society choose to agree with those assertions is another matter.

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        • bikeninja May 18, 2017 at 3:20 pm

          I think several commentators are confusing ethical with moral behaviour. Ethics involves following the standards and codes of a particular job or legal system, but that does not necessarily make it moral. If your job, sanctioned by the governor of your state is to use water cannons on native oil pipeline protestors in sub freezing weather, it may be ethical, but not moral. True morality is never dictated by the work rules of a job.

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          • SD May 18, 2017 at 8:35 pm

            And the ethical standards in a given profession aren’t necessarily ethical by societal standards.

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          • shuppatsu May 18, 2017 at 10:16 pm

            There’s no clear-cut distinction between ethics and morals, and even if there were, it wouldn’t be the one you are proposing. My college ethics class certainly wasn’t about the standards and codes of a profession!

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            • soren May 19, 2017 at 1:09 pm

              there is a very big difference:

              ethics are not necessarily based on cultural or religious tradition.
              morals are based on cultural or religious tradition.

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              • Middle of the Road Guy May 20, 2017 at 12:31 pm

                Quite often an ethic and moral arrive at the same conclusion. An athiest and an Evangelical can both agree murder is bad.

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  • Mike Sanders May 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    In other words, he’s claiming that the bike lane markings were improperly or illegally placed by Portland DOT and/or ODOT, and they should be on trial for conspiracy to create unsafe conditions directly attributable to York’s death.

    That makes no sense at all. By that logic, the St. John’s Bridge shouldn’t have bike lanes on it. In other words, bikes shouldn’t be on that bridge at any time, for any reason. The judge properly threw out that argument. He deserves more than three years behind bars. He should’ve been hit with the utmost penalty called for by law.

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  • HJ May 18, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Hope that lawyer who claims to be a cyclist realizes he will never be welcome on a group ride in this city ever again.

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    • Gena G May 18, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      And on that note, what kind of lawyer is this guy? His firm (Bethune & Martz) doesn’t have a website or really any online presence. Seems odd.

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      • meh May 18, 2017 at 2:36 pm

        So website ownership indicates capability and expertise in an area such a being a criminal attorney?

        GM has a great website, so does Ford and Chrylser. Chevron, BP and Shell as well. Does that make you agree with their social responsibility?

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  • George Dorn May 18, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Gena G
    And on that note, what kind of lawyer is this guy? His firm (Bethune & Martz) doesn’t have a website or really any online presence. Seems odd.
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    Let’s avoid stalking and dogpiling on the defense attorney. He’s obligated to present the best possible defense for his client.

    The DA, on the other hand, chose to accept the plea deal to save the expense of the trial, basically saying that 36-48 months is enough for this crime, no need to send a message by convicting him of involuntary manslaughter.

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    • Hazel May 18, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      This was not just “accepted” by the DA, it was also agreed to with the family who is now spared the extra anguish of having to go through a trial. A plea of guilty and a sentencing hearing allows them to attempting to move past this tragedy.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I hope that this case (and the many others less documented) allow Oregon legislators a “safe” political place to close this gapping bloody loophole in our traffic safety enforcement system during next session…no license => no insurance => multiple moving violations / unpaid traffic tickets = roadway carnage.

    [As I do not remember Jonathan reporting / Gerik mentioning if there had been any proposal in committee for such.]

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    • jeff May 18, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      you cannot legislate someone out of making such bad, selfish decisions…there are already laws in place, this a-hole wasn’t following them. writing more laws wont’ change a thing. you cannot legislate personal responsibility. all you can do is write greater penalties for deterrence, but this crap will still happen.

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      • Todd Boulanger May 18, 2017 at 3:09 pm

        Jeff – I agree with you on one level (per personal responsibility, it would be great if all motor vehicle operators took their repeated poor behaviour to heart) but the current system has no performance measure / feedback loop…so far as long as the “bandages” (tickets/ towing in this scenario) are handed out the enforcement system is “Ok” with it. It may not take a “new” law but a revision of existing laws or codes on the books is in order.

        Chronic offender drivers like Joel Schrantz, will crush any attempt at a successful implementation of Vision Zero / Target Zero…

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  • Todd Boulanger May 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Jonathan, would you post a link to the crash report (or at least the incident diagram) so we can see the lane positioning of the vehicles, as discussed by both sides of the case?

    [Or someone feel free to anonomously email it to me otherwise.]

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 18, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    This is sad on so many levels. First and foremost for Mitch and those who cared about him.

    The punishment strikes me as light if anything. In OR, 3rd degree assault which doesn’t even require intention to injure can carry a heavier penalty than this. I’m guessing Schrantz can get out early if he behaves.

    Hopefully probation conditions are such that he will stop driving for real and they’ll toss him in for much longer if he doesn’t.

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  • J_R May 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    What I object to is Bethune’s statement (as published in the O) “It’s a dangerous game out there for them [cyclists] every single time.” It’s only a “game” if you, Lawyer Bethune, refer to it as such and you keep using victim blaming.

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    • Racer X May 18, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      …such statements may serve Bethune (and other defence attorneys) well professionally in their business of defending a “set class” of clientele…say it enough in the press and it becomes true and may help your client with a future jury…

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    • wsbob May 20, 2017 at 6:21 pm

      “…” It’s only a “game” if you, Lawyer Bethune, refer to it as such and you keep using victim blaming. …” j_r

      Oh c’mon. I can’t believe you don’t realize that bethune used that metaphor ‘dangerous game’, simply because it’s a manner of speaking from pop culture, and doesn’t imply seriously that riding a bike in traffic, is a game.

      If you want to seriously check the credibility of bethune’s reference to the police investigative report, see if you can get a copy of the full report, to find out exactly where on the road it was, that investigators felt Mitch York was incorrectly riding.

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  • Mossby Pomegranate May 18, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    This is pathetic and so disappointing. He should be behind bars until he no longer breathes.

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    • 9watts May 18, 2017 at 8:59 pm

      Well, that is both vengeful and extraordinarily expensive for the taxpayer.
      I too think that the punishment here doesn’t quite seem to fit the crime, but adding more decades in prison has not generally seemed to me like a solution either.

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      • BB May 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        Who says it has to be decades? Prison can be a dangerous place..

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  • Free Market Economist May 18, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    The ones who should have gone to jail are the police and justice department folks who did not arrest him and put him away long ago. If there hasn’t been a legal suit about THAT then some lawyer is asleep at the wheel.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. May 18, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Any chance we’ll get protected bike lanes on the St. Johns Bridge before this guy gets out of jail? 😉

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    • J_R May 19, 2017 at 7:31 am


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    • Justin M May 19, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Nah, but it’s a moot point. No doubt the earthquake will kill us all by then and take the bridge down with it. Enjoy Arby’s.

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  • Jeff T. May 19, 2017 at 12:40 pm

    Why does the state of Oregon not have annual vehicle safety inspections along with emissions testing?

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    • El Biciclero May 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

      The vehicle owner would have to care about being registered and voluntarily submit to such tests. The defendant here doesn’t seem the type.

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      • Dan A May 19, 2017 at 3:04 pm

        Though at least it would be more apparent, since his tags would be expired. There’s no way to tell when someone is driving with a suspended license.

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        • El Biciclero May 22, 2017 at 3:33 pm

          True, that. I’d love to see entirely different license plates issued for cars owned by or available to (e.g., owned by someone in the same household as) suspended drivers. Drivers of those cars would be subject to stop by any police officer at any time, merely to check that the current driver had a valid license.

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    • Pete May 20, 2017 at 3:37 pm

      I’ve noticed this disappear from many states over the years. When I owned my first car (Massachusetts), we had to have a full safety inspection: signals, brake lights, headlight aiming, etc. Now it seems we just test for excess hydrocarbons (in denser areas; I have a car registered to my home in Hood River County and we don’t smog test there).

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      • John Lascurettes May 22, 2017 at 9:41 am

        As always, budget cuts. Y’know, because our government allegedly spends too much money all the time. So we need to cut services that actually protect the public.

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  • Michael Ingrassia May 19, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    My commute is a game to Mr. Bethune?

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  • Tim May 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm

    Mr. Schr also found it was easier and cheaper to buy a used vehicle for $500 and drive that car around until the next time he was caught.

    You can not buy beer without a drivers licence, but you can buy a car. If it was a felony to sell a car to people like this we could see some change, before he kills someone and we have to foot the bill for his prison time.

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    • Dan A May 23, 2017 at 7:16 am

      There are other deterrents that could be employed too. Driving with suspended license? Car is seized, immediately. Caught 2nd time? Go to jail.

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      • 9watts May 23, 2017 at 7:24 am

        A familiar and tempting strategy. But this prompts a question for me: who should pay for that? Incarceration is fantastically expensive. Would it be fair to bill the auto-dependent, including those who drive responsibly, for this? I don’t know the answer. And if not, how do we pay for it?

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        • Dan A May 23, 2017 at 9:03 am

          $5000 fine?

          All this assumes that we never try to implement ID recognition software in cars, which would stop people from being able to drive illegally in the first place.

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        • Brian May 23, 2017 at 9:07 am

          How about auctioning all of the impounded cars to cover the costs?

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          • 9watts May 23, 2017 at 9:10 am

            That might work to cover administrative expenses but hardly the costs of incarceration. Especially if we’re talking the kind of car Mr. Schrantz drove.

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            • Dan A May 24, 2017 at 8:21 am

              Most of the cars would be more valuable than the $500 heaps he drove. I think if people understood that they were going to lose the vehicle they are driving in immediately, it might be a good enough deterrent to stop people from doing this in the first place.

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              • Pete May 24, 2017 at 5:24 pm

                Still boggles my mind you can lose your car for selling drugs but as I understand it, not for something like this.

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  • Holtz May 28, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    Here’s a fresh example of a driver who is being allowed to cause mayhem… on the South Burlingame NextDoor.com today, a man said he was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver on Terwilliger near Barbur. He got the license plate… and get this… the police know the suspect and told the victim “his licence is suspended, no insurance in over a year, hasn’t lived in current listed address in over three years”.
    I dread hearing about this repeat offender again… AFTER he’s killed someone.

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