Budd gets jail for vehicular homicide
Buffalo/Pepin Circuit Court Judge James Duvall said Wednesday he didn't get a lot of sleep the night before in trying to decide a proper sentence for George Budd.
The 54-year-old Beldenville native pleaded guilty Oct. 23 to homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle in the March death of Julie Nelson, 47, Hammond, Wis. Budd struck the motorcycle Nelson was riding on with her husband, Glen, 48. Glen was seriously injured as a result.
Before handing down his sentence, Duvall explained to a full courtroom why he agonized over his decision.
"What is the right thing?" he asked. "I wouldn't blame the Nelson family if they said the maximum penalty" because, when addressing Budd, "you were at fault. You knew where your driveway was, you knew the road.
"You did something bad. How do we ever make amends?"
Yet, Duvall said, if Budd is sentenced to prison and he doesn't see the light of day for a long time, what good will that do?
"Statistics show, if I want him to reoffend, I'll send him to prison," Duvall said, adding he'll be torn away from his family and society and learn a whole new set of trends that won't be conducive upon his release.
"If we keep him away from the public, he's going to be a greater risk of causing damage," Duvall continued. "He doesn't get to 55 unless he's being socially compliant."
Therefore, Duvall placed Budd on three years' probation with six months jail as a condition. Other conditions include no consumption of alcohol or drugs, complete an alcohol and drug assessment, maintain full-time employment, no entrance into bars or taverns without permission from the probation agent and perform 20 hours of community service monthly upon his release. Budd will start his jail term Monday morning.
Pierce County Sheriff's deputies were called to a car versus motorcycle accident on 650th Street, north of CTH J on March 17.
When officers arrived, Budd identified himself as the driver of the car. He said he was southbound on 650th, approaching his driveway at N7652, when he noticed the headlight from an oncoming vehicle in the distance. He said as he started to make his turn, the motorcycle came over the hill at a high rate of speed and struck his car.
The complaint says Budd was asked three times if he had anything to drink before he finally said "yes" after his preliminary breath test registered a .13.
He was given a series of field sobriety tests, including another PBT which showed a .128. After those tests, which he failed, he was taken to River Falls Area Hospital for a blood draw and then taken to the Pierce County Jail.
Deputies again asked Budd for his version of what happened. He said the motorcycle came up over the hill at a high rate of speed and collided with the front passenger side of his truck.
He said he saw the motorcycle's driver, identified as Glen, hit the windshield of his truck, but didn't see Julie. Budd was unsure of the motorcycle's speed, but estimated it to be at least 65 miles per hour. He said he was not injured.
In the meantime, deputies found Glen, who was conscious, but severely injured. He kept asking what happened and about his wife. Deputies also found Julie, who was unresponsive. Both were transferred to Regions Hospital. Julie was pronounced dead. Glen was in the hospital until July.
In April, deputies got the results back from the state on Budd's blood draw, which showed a .11.
"I accept full responsibility for my actions," Budd told the court. "I feel great sadness for a life that was cut short and the impact that it has had on Glen and his children.
"I can't change what happened that day, but I'll make sure it won't happen again."
Duvall also addressed a few assumptions during his explanation. One, despite some beliefs from the Budd family, Glen Nelson's driving wasn't at fault. Two, since Budd comes from a family of means, Duvall said, "this case isn't about money, it's personal responsibilities." And third, to go along with point two, Duvall said he never heard the Budd name until he was assigned the case.
Budd also pleaded guilty to reckless driving to cause great harm. He was placed on probation for three years as well, with the same conditions applying, minus the jail. Budd will also have his license revoked for 14 months and pay a $1,235 fine for operating with a prohibited alcohol content. Restitution will be determined within 60 days, but an estimated figure during the hearing was somewhere between $60,000 and $70,000.