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Judge: William C. Griesbach
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Milwaukee County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office in Milwaukee
Description: Milwaukee, Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with involuntary manslaughter in Indian Country.
On April 18, 2019, officers, firefighters, and EMS were dispatched to a two-vehicle, head-on crash on CTH VV near St. Michael’s Cemetery on the Menominee Indian Reservation. When officials arrived at the scene, they found two SUVs—a Dodge Durango and a Kia Sorrento—with severe front-end damage and four total occupants. Erin Schweitzer/Martin, age 42, , an enrolled member of the Menominee Tribe, was the sole occupant of the Durango. The Sorrento had three occupants, all enrolled members of the Menominee Tribe from the same family: 66-year-old W.M.B. in the driver’s seat, and W.M.B.’s two grandchildren, 27-year-old K.R.L. in the front-right passenger’s seat, and 16-year-old S.A.B. in the back seat.
K.R.L. was flown to ThedaCare Hospital in Neenah, where, despite the best efforts of medical personnel, he died of the blunt-force injuries sustained in the crash. Rear-seat passenger S.A.B. was taken by ambulance to ThedaCare, where she underwent surgery for a broken femur. S.A.B. continues to suffer from the lingering impact of her injuries. W.M.B., who was also taken by ambulance to ThedaCare, suffered head, torso, and limb injuries that required multiple surgeries and months-long efforts toward rehabilitation.
The investigation determined that Schweitzer—who had three prior drunk-driving convictions at the time of the crash—drove the Durango across the centerline and crashed head-on into the Sorrento. Schweitzer lied to officers at the scene, claiming that she had picked up an unknown male to drive the Durango because she was too drunk to drive. She later admitted that she was the driver and sole occupant. Schweitzer’s blood-test results revealed a .238 blood alcohol concentration, nearly four times the legal limit of .08 BAC; and 3.2 nanograms of Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinols, the active ingredient in marijuana, well above the legal limit of 1 nanogram of Delta-9-THC.
In sentencing Schweitzer, Judge Griesbach highlighted that the crash had a devastating and rippling impact on the victims and their families; that Schweitzer’s reckless choice to drive with such high concentrations of alcohol and drugs meant that she was effectively an unguided missile and an accident waiting to happen; and that in addition to Schweitzer’s conduct in this case, her prior history of drunk driving made her a clear threat to the public. The judge also emphasized the need for just punishment, to promote respect for the law, and to deter others from driving drunk and/or while high on drugs.
This case was investigated by the Menominee Tribal Police Department, the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment followed by three years' of supervised release.