Former San Jose City Council candidate and Bay Area Women’s March founder Jenny Higgins Bradanini delayed entering a plea during her arraignment Wednesday for a felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charge.
Higgins Bradanini, who made an unsuccessful bid for San Jose’s District 10 City Council seat earlier this year, was driving down the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road on Dec. 16, 2019 when she hit and killed 66-year-old Santa Cruz resident Timothy Starkey.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office charged Higgins Bradanini with the felony count on July 14 after a seven-month investigation by the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department. She surrendered herself to county jail on July 30 where she was booked and released after posting $100,000 bail. If convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter, Higgins Bradanini could face up to six years in prison.
According to the incident report attached to Santa Clara County Superior Court charging documents, a witness said the local Women’s March founder was “swerving and unable to maintain her lane both to the left and to the right.”
Higgins Bradanini told officers that the events leading up to the crash were “blurry,” although she did recall seeing Starkey within 30 to 40 feet before she hit him. During her interview with police, she wasn't sure whether she had been taking her jacket off when the collision occurred and didn’t have a “clear recognition” of what exactly happened.
“Bradanini did not display any objective symptoms of alcohol intoxication, but was unable to clearly describe her actions just prior to the collision had trouble focusing and articulating her thoughts or answering simple questions with slowed thinking, and apparent memory loss,” police wrote in a summary of the incident.
Higgins Bradanini also told officers she had taken a prescription drug prior to the crash and a subsequent blood test found traces of a benzodiazepine in her system. While the name of the medication was redacted in the incident report, benzodiazepines are known to have sedative effects and are used to treat anxiety, panic attacks and insomnia, among other things. They also come with a warning that users shouldn’t drive or operate heavy machinery while taking them.
Based on speed calculations, investigators determined Higgins Bradanini was driving between 30 and 37 mph in the 35 mph zone.
An autopsy report for Starkey obtained by San Jose Inside earlier this year stated he died on impact, as the force of the crash was strong enough to sever his legs almost entirely.
Higgins Bradanini could not be reached for comment.