Sad Irony in Crash That Killed Prosecutor

A reader forwarded this case to me: Official's blood-alcohol level was found to be triple the legal limit

The Deputy Chief of Prosecutions, Jane Radostits, who had previously prosecuted drunk driving cases, killed herself while driving with a BAC of 0.25, three times over the legal limit. She also broke the arms and legs of another driver in the 4 car crash.

Radostits also put Aurora motorist Randall Visor behind bars for 13 years for the deaths of three Waubonsie Valley High School students and another woman while he was driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 in 1997. She told the jury that "calling this a tragedy is insufficient" because "the tragedy is that it could have been avoided."

I don't know what to make of this. Every now and then I get an article emailed to me in which a prosecutor gets caught in the very act they prosecute.

Do they think they're above the law? That they could talk their way out of it if they were caught, in a way that other defendants couldn't? Did they think they wouldn't be caught?

Did she think it's ok for her to drive drunk, that maybe she could do it safely, unlike the defendants she prosecuted?

In both this case and this previous one I posted, the prosecutors killed themselves (in one case apparently intentionally and in the other apparently accidentally), so we'll never know. Not that we would necessarily know otherwise.

I don't take any pleasure from these cases. (I invariably get an email to that effect.) I don't like to see anyone hurt or killed or even just put in a bad situation. But I do hope that maybe it gives other prosecutors pause - who are "the bad guys?" Are they that different from you? Or your friends and colleagues?

The family member of a drunk driving victim Radostits had previously prosecuted made a statement. The father of one of Visor's victims said he was saddened at the news. "It just shows that even good people can make a mistake," said Sheldon Anderson, father of Jenni Lynn Anderson.

I just wonder if he thought that the man who was responsible for his daughter's death was a good person who made a mistake. That man (Visor) was sentenced to 14 years in prison and, as a result of that "lenient" sentence, the law was changed to allow a maximum sentence of 30 years in a drug or alcohol related reckless homicide that that causes more than one death.

The State's Attorney, Joseph Birkett said of Radostits, "She paid the ultimate price—she's dead. That doesn't change the impact of what she has accomplished in the state." He was able to look beyond this horribly reckless act to what she had already accomplished in her life.

I don't know anything about Visor or the other defendant's Radostits prosecuted, but I wonder how much it mattered what else they had accomplished in their life.

Like I said, I just don't know what to make of this.


  1. I think this is like stories about women who do sexist things - told from the viewpoint of someone who doesn't think women should be sexist. But just because they're women doesn't mean they're not sexist.
    Similarly, just because someone is a prosecutor or a judge, doesn't mean they're not human (or does it?). We all make mistakes. We all screw up.

  2. Ummm, I don't get what the difficulty is. No one ever suggested that prosecutors are all saints, much less that they are above the law they enforce. The fact that I might be tempted to steal or commit an assault doesn't and shouldn't make me less dedicated to the idea that theft and assault are crimes and need to be punished. If I myself engage in those crimes, I would hope that I would be treated as any other similarly situated offender: in fact, I should perhaps be punished more severely since I oughta know better!

    In a neighboring jurisdiction, a prosecutor was stopped and arrested for DUI. A special prosecutor comes in, and the case is resolved just as any other DUI case. In this day and age of the ubiquitous press, a DA's office can and should do no less than be transparent about such cases.

  3. This post irritated me. It is suspiciously bland, yet filled with cleverly hidden jabs at the prosecutors. I realize that you are of a defense mindset, but you would do well to at least acknowledge that prosecutors are human, with all the implied flaws therein.

    There is nothing nefarious here, nothing hard to understand ... it's not an "above the law" mentality among us, we're citizens just like the average joe, our job just happens to be prosecuting crimes.

    If we violate those same laws, we'll get the same day in court, and I suspect we'll be sentenced much more harshly because as the poster above mentioned, "We oughta know better." It also becomes news if we do these things, resulting in public humiliation of ourselves and our families. The average joe's DUI doesn't make the front page.

    Gimme a break. The better members of our defense bar recognize that we're not the a**holes here, we're just normal folks doing a job.


  5. A prosecutor accused of three misdemeanors and an infraction stemming from a suspected drunken driving crash was not in Stanislaus County Superior Court as scheduled Monday.

    Instead, defense attorney Lewis Wentz of Modesto showed up early and entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Deputy District Attorney Sandra Bishop.

    Rather than go before the judge Monday, a court clerk rescheduled the matter to June 18.

    Bishop, 53, was involved in a wreck in the 100 block of Johnson Street about 12:25 a.m. April 13, police said. Police said she hit a parked GMC Sierra and left the scene, but witnesses who live nearby got her license plate number and reported the incident.

    Modesto police officers contacted Bishop at her home. She took a breath test, which registered a blood alcohol level of 0.26 percent, or more than three times the legal limit, according to court records.

    Bishop has not been in the courthouse in recent weeks but remains on staff in the district attorney's office.

    She is charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or more, and hit-and-run, all misdemeanors. She also is charged with an infraction for failing to provide proof of insurance.

  6. Oh my, you do have a lot of prosecutors reading your blog, don't you?

  7. And pithy, anonymous folks too.

  8. Blonde,

    Whenever I see a "prosecutor accused of crime" story, I always hope, like you, that it will make prosecutors realize that "the bad guys" are not so different from themselves -- that even people with all the advantages in life can make a mistake, have a moment of weakness, be caught in a near-impossible situation, etc. I hope that maybe, just maybe, prosecutors will keep this in mind when sentencing regular "bad guys."

    Unfortunately, it seems that the opposite happens -- instead of creating empathy for defendants, prosecutors want to punish their own even more!

  9. Rico, Pithy and Anonymous's my point. Most prosecutors I know, like you, consider themselves "normal folks doing a job." But when they get stopped for a traffic ticket, they flash their badge and get out of it. They do not participate in their "same day in court" and they certainly do not get treated "more harshly" than the rest of us.

    This is but a small example of the kind of arrogance which tarnishes the name of honest prosecutors. If YOU do not accept the "professional courtesy" and actually ask for that ticket, then more power to ya. But dare I say the majority DO believe they are above the law, and their actions prove it.

    Ergo, the sarcasm, clevery hidden jabs, etc.

  10. Pithy:

    First off, let me appologize for my harsh tone, it was a knee-jerk reaction.

    I see what you're saying, and I'm sure it's more of a problem in some places than others, but I'm in a fairly small jurisdiction and around here there's no "flash your badge" and get out of a traffic ticket. Our LEOs are not exactly fond of lawyers of any flavor, even prosecutors, and are not exactly the "professional courtesy" types. Add to this the fact that our elected sheriff and state attorney are not exactly sympatico, it's almost a trophy for one of them to "bag the whale" and write us a ticket. That being said, I do my level best not to get into a situation that would foster any professional courtesy. Not to say I'm any better than the defendants I prosecute, we're all human...I just make different choices.


  11. Rico--No offense taken. It's nice to have a discussion with a prosecutor that is not about how many years my client is facing.

    If you ever find yourself desiring to do stuff which would then tempt you to "flash your badge" consider moving to Central California and flash away...I am glad to hear you don't do that. Pithy