Ex-San Jose Council Candidate Makes $100K Bail After Vehicular Manslaughter Charges

Former San Jose City Council candidate and Bay Area Women’s March founder Jenny Higgins Bradanini was booked into county jail last week for felony vehicular manslaughter charges and released soon after on a $100,000 bail.

Higgins Bradanini, who ran for the open District 10 seat in the March primary election, hit and killed 66-year-old Santa Cruz resident Timothy Starkey last year while driving under the influence of powerful prescription drugs.

Around 11:40am on Dec. 16, Higgins Bradanini was driving to a doctor’s appointment when she struck Starkey on the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos.

As first reported by San Jose Inside, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence charges against Higgins Bradanini on July 14. The crime carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison.

A judge signed off on Higgins Bradanini’s arrest warrant late last week, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alexander Adams. She surrendered herself to county jail on July 30 where she was booked and released after posting bail.

Adams said that her arraignment hasn’t been scheduled at this time, most likely due to delays at the court caused by Covid-19.

Higgins Bradanini’s lawyer, Joshua Bentley, has yet to respond to a request for comment.

An incident report appended to Santa Clara County Superior Court charging documents stated that a witness saw Higgins Bradanini “swerving.” However, police say that she was unable to recall why she veered out of her lane.

“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.

A blood test taken after the crash showed traces of a benzodiazepine in Higgins Bradanini’s system. The schedule IV drug, which she had a prescription for, comes with a warning that users should not drive or operate heavy machinery since side effects include sedation, weakness, dizziness and unsteadiness.

Grace Hase is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @grace_hase. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

9 Comments

  1. I thought cash bail was totally eliminated in SCC except for murder cases. Did I miss the memo reinstating it? Vehicular homicide is not murder, it’s not a crime of violence; it’s an accident.

  2. John,

    Just b/c she clearly didn’t intend to do what she ended up doing doesn’t mean she didn’t commit a violent crime. You can’t ignore warnings about drugs and then say it’s an accident that could have happened to anyone.

  3. Mr. XBR976, you are legally incorrect sir. What this lady did was an act of criminal negligence, not an act of violence.

    For the act to have been a violent crime, she would have had to deliberately run over the person, with the intent to harm them, with the knowledge that traumatic injury would be the likely result of what she did. She would have had to assault them with the vehicle, as it were. It doesn’t sound like that is what happened.

    What she did, based on those few facts reported so far, was, at most, perhaps recklessly ignored the risk of driving after taking medication, or whatever else that was she was on, and done so after failing to perceive a risk she should reasonably have perceived. Based solely on the facts presented here, that would be criminal negligence, and is classic involuntary manslaughter.

    I feel bad for the family of the person who was killed. Yet, these sorts of things happen every day. People never quite get over these types of tragic events but most do learn to live with them. I hope and believe these unfortunate souls will be able to do the same.

    I have no sympathy or use for a drunk driver. Did this woman drive after knowing she should not have driven, or did she take her medication as directed, then have some sort of unexpected reaction and not realize it before she was behind the wheel and it was too late. I have no idea. I do know this; Her life is ruined and like that family that lost a loved one, her life will never be the same and I doubt she will ever get over it either. I would not be surprised if she kills herself within 2-3 years. Someone better keep an eye on her, especially since it sounds like she has already been taking anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication before this even happened.

    People screw up. That’s not an excuse. That’s not a dismissal of what happened. It is just life. She ran over someone, that person died, and her life as she knew it is also dead. What more do you people want? Would you prefer she do the naked walk of shame down Santa Clara street like Circe in Game of Thrones so you can all spit on her? If she had a criminal history or a history of DUI, I would be there throwing some rotten vegetables on her myself too as she walked by but she used to be a normal person; Now she never will be again. That’s a life sentence.

  4. XBR976. You are 100% wrong. The fact that she did not intend to hurt anyone actually does mean that she did not commit a violent crime. A “violent” crime is using physical force with the intent to hurt or kill someone. I have read nothing to indicate she intended to hurt Mr. Starkey. Her crime was, if any, driving under the influence of a prescription drug, causing death. Sounds like a simple vehicular homicide to me, that is involuntary manslaughter. I read a newspaper account which said the amount of the anti anxiety drug in her system was small. Her lawyer might have had a defense that established reasonable doubt that she was not in fact under the influence were it not for the responding officer’s statements in his report about how disoriented she seemed to be. But at the end of the day her collision with poor Mr. Starkey was an accident, pure and simple, not a crime of violence. Nevertheless, she should do some significant time. The fact that she has no prior record and expressed remorse at the scene will probably buy her jail time instead of prison time. Considering what Covid is doing to jail and prison populations, if I were her lawyer I’d push for a quick trial in order to negotiate a house arrest with an ankle bracelet and significant community service during a three year probation, requiring her to do something like giving 1,000 hours of talks at schools about the dangers of driving while under the influence of anything. This does nothing to alleviate the pain Mr. Starkey’s relatives feel, but 40 lashes administered by his relatives is out of the question.
    I agree with Robillard that this will change her life forever, as well as that of Mr. Starkey’s relatives and friends.
    I find it interesting that she retained a lawyer from out of SC County.

  5. Mr. JMO’C, it doesn’t seem all that unusual that she hired a lawyer from out of county. I mean, weren’t all of O.J.’s attorneys from out of town too?

    I think it is safe to assume these facts as established by the published excerpts of the police report and Ms. Hase’s almost shocking competency and relatively unbiased reporting: The woman was driving, then hit someone, and killed them. The woman was found with some amount of a benzodiazepine drug in her blood, likely a prescription. The observations the officer documented in his report are consistent with benzodiazepine use. To be under the influence of a drug, one need only have ingested enough that it causes any physiological effect. This is practically any amount. Whether or not she was “impaired” is the question and the totality of circumstances are compelling that she was. Now then, was this deliberate and reckless negligence or an inadvertent mistake? I’m not a doctor but it is my understanding that with benzodiazepines even ridiculous things like many herbal supplements and even grapefruit juice can increase the amount of drug active in the bloodstream and result in impairment sometimes, even if taken as directed and even if that same dosage had been taken safely previously. Is it reasonable to expect someone to anticipate all potential negative drug interactions before taking any drug and then not go anywhere after taking so much as a Tylenol? I don’t know, maybe it is.

    Life is dangerous and sometimes bad things happen to good people, but good people suffer more than bad people do for the exact same mistake. For a felon who has spent most of his feral adult life in prison, doing a year in county jail would be nothing but for a normal, civilized woman, spending a week in jail would be far more tortuous. The felon doesn’t lose anything from a criminal conviction, some jail time and the knowledge that he hurt or killed someone. A normal person, like this woman, loses almost everything, life as she knows it.

    I’m not getting soft here. I still believe that people are no damn good but piling on to someone who has already lost everything she knows and believes and built in her life and hoped to achieve, is a bit of overkill. Again, the real victims are the family members of the person who was killed but we can’t do anything for them, only time can…and maybe an insurance settlement.

    And what the hell, if I knew the insurance settlement would be big enough to pay off the student loans on my 3 kids and my mortgage, I’d let someone run over me. There are worse things in life than dying.

  6. I think is it premature to have any opinion about how reckless Bradanini was. For one thing, I see no indication of how much benzodiazepine she had taken- if you take a lot of it, you are supposed to know you are going to get drowsy – if she took a small amount but had an extreme reaction, much more than she had on other occasions, i do not see much fault on her part.

    HOWEVER = the report says she was swerving back and forth, both right and left- at that point, you are supposed to know you are in no shape to drive – but then again, someone could be falling asleep and now aware of it.

    While I am not sure severe punishment is appropriate, I do not like the fact she did not get arrested on the spot – maybe released with no bail – but still, isn’t arrest, when someone is clearly 100% to blame for a fatal accident – nothing at all? Wait six months, when the drug tests only take at most a few weeks?
    I have to think she was given a lot of protection, and, that may not be a subject for her punishment, but someone should explain what happened. It looks corrupt.

    Lastly, my personal impression of Bradanini is she is too stubborn to, for example, stop driving because she was too high – my impression is, she would persist and cause the wreck, when I would likely pull over and call someone for help- she is too angry and stubborn to listen I think – just an impression from my personal contact with her, which is very limited.

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