Jenny Higgins Bradanini Charged with Vehicular Manslaughter

Former San Jose City Council candidate and Bay Area Women’s March founder Jenny Higgins Bradanini has been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence after she fatally struck a pedestrian with her SUV last December.

Authorities say she was under the influence of a benzodiazepine, which came with a warning that users should not drive or operate heavy machinery because side effects include sedation, weakness, dizziness and unsteadiness.

At around 11:40am on Dec. 16, Higgins Bradanini was driving to a doctor’s appointment in Los Gatos when she hit 66-year-old Timothy Starkey on the 900 block of Blossom Hill Road in Los Gatos, according to police reports obtained by San Jose Inside.

Higgins Bradanini was charged July 14 after a seven-month investigation.

Per an incident report appended to Santa Clara County Superior Court charging documents, a witness said Higgins Bradanini was “swerving and unable to maintain her lane both to the left and to the right.” The crash reportedly happened on the north shoulder of Blossom Hill Road, which had a five-foot bike lane separating the lane and shoulder.

Police say Higgins Bradanini seemed 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.

“I hit the car and was like oh my god, where is the guy, so l knew there was a guy there,” Higgins Bradanini reportedly told police. “Then I freaked out and these ladies called 911. I wanted to put something over him, I wanted to cover [Starkey] up and I was thinking please don’t die, please don’t die.”

Higgins Bradanini also told officers at the scene that she had taken a prescription drug prior to the collision and provided them with a blood sample. While the name of the medication was redacted in the report, it was noted that the prescription was a benzo, a Schedule IV controlled substance.

Immediately following the crash, police interviewed Higgins Bradanini at the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department building. Once in the interview room, officers report that she “spontaneously stated ‘I killed somebody.’”

She reportedly told cops that the events leading up to the crash were “blurry” to her, but she recalled seeing Starkey 30 to 40 feet before she struck him. She wondered whether she was in the process of taking off her jacket, but didn’t have a “clear recognition,” police state in their summary of the interview.

During an interview break, cops reportedly discussed evaluating Higgins Bradanini for a mental health hold “because she had mentioned to another officer about wanting to die.”

When asked if she was suicidal, Higgins Bradanini said “I just don’t want to be here. I killed somebody.” Police say she continued by asking, “How do I ever face his family? I took somebody’s life by accident and I don’t know how you ever get past that.”

Based on speed calculations, officers determined that Higgins Bradanini was driving between 30 mph and 37 mph in the 35 mph zone.

The maximum sentence for vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is six years in prison, according to a District Attorney’s office spokesperson.

Higgins Bradanini did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The South San Jose resident was running for Councilman Johnny Khamis’ open District 10 seat, but took third in the March 3 primary election behind Brigade-founder Matt Mahan and businesswoman Helen Wang.

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.

31 Comments

  1. I have to wonder had she won, would she have been charged?

    Glad the truth came out, hopefully Tim Starkeys family can get some closure.

  2. > I have to wonder had she won, would she have been charged?

    I had exactly the same question.

    It also occurred to me that if her prescription drug had such an effect on her memory and ability to think clearly, should there be a law REQUIRING candidates to disclose this information to voters BEFORE an election?

  3. There only two types of drugs, legal and illegal. You are a danger to yourself and others when DUI of any of them. This includes alcohol. These case shows the tremendous consequences for everyone involved.

  4. She was driving within the speed limit and it was an accident. Sound like she had a legitimate prescription for her medication. Why vehicular manslaughter? Seems over the top. She needs a better attorney.

    • Hi George – we reported on the crash back in December. She was just charged with vehicular manslaughter this month though. I will update the story to reflect that.

  5. Despite being a run-of-the-mill vehicular manslaughter case things could get interesting come sentencing time. First, when the probation department’s recommendation is revealed, and second, when the defendant is sentenced. Will there be any evidence of the “Brock Turner Effect” in the probation department’s report? Does there, within that agency, exist any residual impact from the criticism it received after assessing the Stanford swimmer according to established criteria. Will the defendant be deprived of the consideration traditionally afforded otherwise law-abiding first time offenders? Will the judge follow the recommendation, and in either case, will the judge’s actions be free of outside influence (MADD) and reelection concerns?

    Lastly, is independence even possible any longer in our local judiciary?

  6. Her difficulties articulating what happened sound like shock, rather than intoxication. Let’s not make this sound as though it’s worse than it already is.

    This is a tragedy, Ms Bradanini is going to be prosecuted, and everyone involved has suffered. Let’s not be ghoulish by trying to make it even worse.

    And whoever brought up the schedule numbers, they go from Schedule I – high potential for abuse and no medical use, like heroin – through Schedule V – very low dose narcotics, like codeine cough syrup. The higher number means milder, not stronger.

  7. Emilie, let’s not minimize the fact that now we are asked for ID in order to buy some over the counter medication. Some people use over the counter medication to get high, relax, so on. Some people are addicted to prescription medication. As I stated before, there are only two types of drugs, legal and illegal. Ignoring the warnings on label and driving under the influence of some legal medication is as dangerous as driving under the influence of an illegal substance. The warnings on the labels are there for a reason. Ignoring those warnings can be lethal as in this case.

  8. She should be sentenced to house arrest for at least a year, with half time off for good behavior, and no outside trips to the salon or the gym or a restaurant. Oh wait, that’s the same as everyone in California.

  9. I found this San Jose Inside article to be THE best article/update I have ever read because of the link provided to read the actual police reports in full from those who were on scene and statements made by the driver. After reading the police reports, including the description of the victim’s condition and Bradanini’s statements and condition, beyond disturbing.

    For me, it was an accident caused by the failure of Bradanini not following the directions of a legal prescription. How scary is that? How often do people not read or follow directions on medications? I suspect a lot.

    Although I feel sorry for Bradanini’s situation, I don’t find her to be a victim of anyone else’s doing. She will live with the the rest of her life.

    The true victim is, and Bradanini would agree, is the man who was killed in such a horrible way. As I recall, he was the a husband, father of 2 (2?) children, and the sole source of income for the family. What made it even worse, if that’s possible, is that it happened right before Christmas as people were decorating for Christmas, sending &!receiving cards, going to/hosting holiday dinners and parties, wrapping gifts, and generally in a holiday spirit.

    The thing that I remember reading that riled people up later even more was that she didn’t appear to be as emotionally upset, as most people in her position would have been, because she was seen at the women’s march smiling and having a good time.

    My deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased man. I really have no words to write that could ever lessen your grief for even for a second.

  10. First of all my sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Starkey. I too was involved in a fatal accident, that resulted in manslaughter charges being filed against me by the Santa Clara DA six months after the accident, perhaps the charges were for Political reasons, I do not know and I will never know why charges were even filed. I was not intoxicated, in my opinion and the Expert’s opinion there was nothing I could have done to prevent this tragedy and finally the pedestrian I struck was found to be heavily under the influence of Methamphetamine. That day, my life changed forever just as it has for Ms. Bradanini and the family of Mr. Starkey. It really does not matter who’s at fault as that does not alter the outcome, someone died! I really hope that Ms. Bradanini receives a fair trial or a fair outcome if the case does not go to trial. Fortunately for myself, the case never went to trial and after two long years, all charges were dismissed. I had the financial resources to defend myself as I am guessing that Ms. Bradanini will have access to the same resources I did. I pity the poor individual that is not able to defend themselves due to the cost. THE CONCEPT OF EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL IS A JOKE IN MY OPINION. The only good that came out of my accident is that anyone that knows me and the circumstances involved is a bit more careful when they drive. Let’s hope that all of us, try and be a bit more careful and hopefully save at least one life.

  11. I just don’t get the double standard here. An “accident”? Ignorance of the law, ignorance of the prescription’s medical recommendation, and even more important, ignorance of years of educational information to not drive under the influence of ANY drug seems more true. If she had been drunk, people would be ALOT more MADD. But wasn’t she “drunk” on her pills? I mean who goes to their Dr.’s appt. high? If this person had a prior DUI, we would be talking 2nd Degree murder. Why is it that someone is not as bad if they take doctor prescribed pills than drink a six pack and then drive and “sadly”, KILL SOMEONE? “Oh, poor Jenny, she made a mistake”. Gimme a break. To the Starkey Family, this is the least I can do for you, God give you peace.

  12. Accident Definition

    1. an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in
    damage or injury. This was definitely not intentional and was obviously unexpected, to state
    otherwise is cruel.
    2. an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause.
    This was a terrible, terrible accident. Ignorance yes, no argument there. Deliberate, absolutely
    not.

    I hope that you are never in such a situation yourself of having KILLED SOMEONE. To this day I do not hide behind the fact that someone “Died”, or that they were “Intoxicated” or that they were “Reckless”, all that matters is someone “Died” and I was the one behind the wheel. I do not Pity or Condone the actions of Ms. Brandanini. If the Courts find her guilty, I do hope that she is sentenced appropriately. I do hope that her financial resources or political stature do not allow her a more lenient sentence than someone of lesser Means.

  13. > Deliberate, absolutely not.

    Was the accident avoidable?

    If it was avoidable, it wasn’t an “accident”.

    Now that we have facts on the record, it should be obvious that Jenny Bradanini should have known after the accident that her use of prescription drugs were a contributing factor. And arguably, the drugs might be regarded as a CAUSAL factor.

    Her attorneys, as well as the attorneys for her political sponsors, likewise should have known that she was legally culpable in some degree.

    The decision for her to resume her campaign under such circumstances, where she would almost certainly NOT be able to devote her full attention and energies to the responsibilities of a City Council member, was a very poor decision.

    Why were voters even asked to consider her candidacy?

  14. I am not a doctor. I am not a pharmacist. I am however a bloviating know-it-all with considerable knowledge regarding DUI drugs and/or alcohol.

    The article mentioned that the woman was found with a benzodiazepine in her blood stream. The side effects she reportedly displayed, i.e., confusion, anterograde amnesia, not wanting to live, and of course the bad driving, etc., are all consistent with the use of a benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepines (often Xanax or similar) are commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders, a condition not uncommon to rich, or at least upper middle-class white people, most often women (Again, the latter is consistent with the facts reported in the article). Even with a prescription, and taken as directed, if this woman mixed benzodiazepines with something even as innocuous as grapefruit juice, or kava, or St. John’s wort or any number of other hippie herbal supplements that upper middle-class white people so often waste money on in an effort to get healthy (while running over people), then she may have inadvertently increased the amount of “benzo” in her blood stream which resulted in disaster.

    What small bit of humanity I may have left goes out to the unfortunate family of the poor person who was killed. I would pray for them but I doubt it would do much good since the Almighty would likely not recognize the voice. The family will never get over this but they will learn to live with it. The woman undoubtedly has car insurance and other assets and certainly a settlement in the high six to low seven figures is forthcoming to those with standing to claim it. Of course, money from the inevitable lawsuit won’t make up for the loss but it’s difficult to imagine they’ll feel too bad while they’re driving a new $100,000 Tesla to the bank.

    Vehicular Manslaughter is the usual charge in such a situation. (There’s no “Brock Turner” here !?!). However, there are other considerations. She’s in for a “life sentence” of sorts. Her career aspirations are dead. She’s out of politics for good and her prospects for any meaningful employment are probably nil, except for possibly starting a non-profit and lecturing on the evils of anti-depressant drugs. She’s apparently already on anti-depressant drugs and expressing great emotional turmoil and casual suicidal thoughts. She may end up just killing herself because she can’t live with the guilt.

    Let the justice system, her own guilt and shame, and life grind her to powder and she’ll blow away in the wind. Simple. Happens all the time. Relax people. Go take a Xanax.

  15. Robillard,

    I think your early analysis seems plausible. However, the assumptions you make about possible restitution are highly speculative. This woman might have a decent net worth–but it wouldn’t be surprising to me–esp. given her relatively young age–if her assets are very low. I’m doubtful that any civil suit is going to turn up deep pockets. The family is probably going to be out of luck there also.

  16. She undoubtedly has car insurance. That family has hit the jackpot. As far as assets, I think she lives in a house out in Almaden Valley somewhere, doesn’t she? I don’t think there’s a blade of grass in a lawn there that’s worth less than a million bucks. She was also in politics, and poor people don’t get into politics..

    I have no sympathy for drunk drivers. Drunk drivers have killed some of my friends. Consider though that for an alcoholic construction worker or busboy, this situation would probably not be that big of a deal; a baloney sandwich and orange juice for lunch, and using a stainless steel toilet, is nothing to them; but here we have an attractive woman, who is wealthy, probably married to a wealthy husband who still has his hair and a better than average BMI, and who is living in an upscale house, but even with all that, she is emotionally fragile enough to still need anti-depressants, likely due to the type of anxiety that only wealthy white people tend to get. This mess is going to hit her 100 times harder than it would the average person. If she ends up getting jail time behind this, they better put her on suicide watch or she might just “Epstein” on them.

  17. “She’s out of politics for good and her prospects for any meaningful employment are probably nil, except for possibly starting a non-profit and lecturing on the evils of anti-depressant drugs. “ — Robillard

    Up until this accident this woman had, as evidenced by her run for office and political activism, assessed herself as having the stuff of leadership. Yet, based on information obtained during the accident investigation an argument could be made that she didn’t have the stuff required of a dog walker. Her reliance on powerful psych meds, sleep aids, and who knows what else, paint the picture of a woman unable to manage her own affairs, let alone that of a council district or political cause.

    At a time when women are relying on psychiatric drugs at an alarming rate (2.5x the male rate) I am horrified to realize that impaired women like Ms. Bradanini still believe themselves qualified to fill positions of responsibility. What combination, I wonder, of narcissism, naiveté, and feminist dogma, convinced her she should embark on any endeavor other than fixing herself?

    Why this woman felt the need to seek personal salvation through pharmacology is, to my mind, the elephant in the room. It is certainly possible her need was based on a depression of organic origins, as is the case for many, but the fact that one out of four adult females are now taking anti-depressants raises the strong possibility that hers was a need born of insidious marketing, personal weakness, and societal acceptance. I, of course, have no way of determining which is the case, but wonder if the prescribing physician did (or even tried)?

    Big Pharm is going to continue to drug our fellow citizens, but I would sure like to see mandatory testing put in place to protect us from electing (or hiring to high office) these zombies who can’t stay between the lines.

  18. I think you’re probably wrong on any potential payoff to the deceased family. I seriously doubt this woman is rich–nothing about her retiring with substantial tech wealth or anything like that from what I’ve heard. She lives in Almaden Valley which is hardly Los Altos and who knows what sort of equity she has in the home. Her auto coverage might not even be that great either–my father was hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk in NYC about 30 years ago and had his leg broken and missed six months of work. The woman who hit him had no assets and $10K insurance coverage–such a joke.

    The real payoff would had been if she was operating a city car while performing a work function–then there are municipal “deep pockets” to get into. I’m still thinking any potential settlement is not coming real soon and will not be that much–probably no more than $500K-$1M–any maybe even far less.

  19. First, all this talk about $ for the Starkey Family, is absolutely sickening in my opinion. I am sure that is the furthest thought from the mind of the Starkey Family at this horrendous time. Secondly, a number of readers seem to be focused on “shaming” Bradanini. Yes Bradanini’s actions resulted in a horrible outcome! As one who has been through this, I can tell you from first hand experience that this could happen to any one of you out there!

    With regards to the financial settlement, again speaking from first hand experience for those morbid readers out there. If any of you own a home, I recommend that you contact your insurance agent today about whether you have an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy provides coverage beyond your basic auto policy which for most of you stops at $ 300K or possibly $ 1 million. Generally such policies are sold in increments of $ 1 million at a cost of approximately $ 500 to $ 750 per $ 1 million of coverage. In my particular case without going into details, even though I was not found at fault, the umbrella policy paid out an undisclosed sum to the other party. I personally was not responsible for a single dollar of the claim. I have been advised that if a person has a reasonable amount of coverage based upon their own financial situation, that the attorneys will generally not pursue a claim beyond the amount of coverage. To pursue a claim beyond one’s coverage can be quite difficult. There are so many ways to avoid having to forego one’s own personal assets, bankruptcy, homesteading your home, retirement plans are generally protected and on and on. Just ask OJ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *