Family angry after fatal crash defendant released

Published 10:55 am Thursday, April 24, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Relatives reacted in anger after a Hennepin County judge released without bail a man accused of driving drunk and killing two young people.

Philip Bertelsen is charged with driving at more than 100 mph in north Minneapolis last November while intoxicated and crashing into vehicles stopped at a red light. The chain reaction crash killed Melvin Jones, 20, and his girlfriend, Brandy Banks-Sutta, 21.

The 55-year-old defendant appeared in court Wednesday where Judge William Koch set no bail in the case. That prompted one of the victims’ family members to yell that the defendant had taken two lives. Another member shouted an expletive at the judge, reports said.

Email newsletter signup

“As you can imagine, the family is devastated by this,” said Mike Padden, an attorney representing Banks-Sutta’s family.

Prosecutors asked for $300,000 bail while the defense requested $5,000 bond.

“When you hear the state request bail at $300,000, and then the decision is made for no bail, that can be fairly shocking,” Padden said.

Bertelsen’s attorney, Robert Christensen, said his client has taken responsibility “for his relationship with alcohol.”

Court documents show Bertelsen had a blood alcohol content of 0.18, more than twice the legal limit, and was driving 107 mph just before impact.