The Utah Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a habitual drunken driver who killed a Highland High School student in a freeway emergency lane in 1994.
Paul G. Bredehoft had a blood alcohol level of .27 percent - more than three times the legal limit - when he plowed into a disabled car and killed Sean Adkins, 17.Adkins and six friends were on their way to a basketball game March 1, 1994, when their station wagon blew a tire. They pulled over along the I-15 northbound collector near 2400 South.
As the boys were changing the tire, Bredehoft's red Mustang swerved into the emergency lane and slammed into the rear of the station wagon at a speed of 50 to 65 miles per hour. The boys scattered, but Adkins was hit and thrown 113 feet down the road.
A 3rd District Court jury deliberated only 40 minutes before convicting Bredehoft of the crime. On Oct. 31, 1994, Judge Glen K. Iwasaki sentenced Bredehoft to one to 15 years in prison with a recommendation that he serve the maximum.
In his appeal, Bredehoft said his lawyer, James D. Mickelson, provided ineffective counsel because of a conflict of interest. He also challenged the introduction of the blood alcohol level evidence and the testimony of an expert witness. The three-judge appeals panel rejected all three claims.
The conflict cited by Bredehoft involved Mickelson's business relationship with two of the three bars, Uncle Bart's and Charley's Club, at which Bredehoft had been drinking on the night of the incident. Mickelson's parents owned the clubs, and Mickelson himself was an officer and part owner of the bars' management company.
According to the appeal, Mickelson's concerns over the potential civil and criminal liability of the bars conflicted with Bredehoft's interests. Bredehoft also argued that a less directly interested attorney might have negotiated a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against Mickelson and the clubs.
However, the appeals court said Bredehoft and Mickelson shared the same goal: Bredehoft's exoneration.
"If Bredehoft were found not guilty . . . imposing vicarious criminal liability on Mickelson or his family would be impossible and imposing dramshop or other civil liability on Mickelson, his family, or the clubs would be far more difficult," Judge Gregory K. Orme wrote for the court.
The judges called Bredehoft's argument regarding a potential plea bargain a "fantasy." They said prosecutors had adamantly refused any kind of plea bargain because of Bredehoft's 10 prior drunken-driving convictions "coupled with the tragic and well-publicized nature" of the case.
"We are wholly unpersuaded that the prosecution would have deviated from this position to pursue unprecedented misdemeanor convictions against Mickelson, his family and the clubs," Orme wrote.
Bredehoft said the trial court should have suppressed evidence of his .27-percent blood alcohol level because his blood was drawn without a warrant. According to testimony at the trial, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jeff Peterson led Bredehoft to an ambulance and advised him there would be a blood test.
"Without objection or resistance, Bredehoft offered his arm and allowed his blood to be drawn," the judges said. There was no deception or trickery, and Bredehoft, "who had prior experience with DUI investigations," was reasonably apprised it was for law enforcement rather than medical purposes, they added.
Later, at the hospital, when someone asked Bredehoft what had happened, he replied, "I was driving drunk and I killed a kid."
In a 1996 civil case, a different 3rd District Court jury assessed $1.8 million in damages against Bredehoft, Uncle Bart's and Charley's Club. The jury found that the clubs had violated Utah's Dramshop Act by serving Bredehoft too many drinks and that Bredehoft's actions amounted to egregious mis-con-duct.