Crash victim’s family delivers message of peace
Judge taken aback by unique approach at Bailey Martin sentencing hearing
A woman explained in court last week that mothers know things about their children — how they feel, what’s on their mind.
Even after they’re dead.
Annette Rud described that concept to a St. Croix County courtroom during the sentencing hearing for the New Richmond woman convicted of killing Rud’s nephew in a 2015 crash. Rud described how a mother’s intuition allowed Jordan M. Cloutier to speak from beyond the grave.
“May peace be with each of you as we move forward,” Rud said, reading from a letter written by Cloutier’s mother.
That peace was extended to Bailey Martin, the 26-year-old woman who pleaded guilty in August to homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle. She admitted to being behind the wheel in the Oct. 24, 2015, crash that killed the 24-year-old Osceola man after he was thrown from the vehicle.
“You did not mean for this to happen. This was an accident,” Rud said, looking at Martin as she read. “Get through this, Bailey, and move on. The last thing I would ever want is for you to suffer on my account.”
The letter, which brought sobs from both sides of the courtroom and prompted a five-minute recess so defense attorney Aaron Nelson could compose himself, represented a seldom-seen request for leniency from the family of a fatal crash victim.
The reading was a first for him, said St. Croix County Circuit Court Judge Scott Needham, who has sat on the bench for 22 years.
“I’ve never heard … a more compassionate, courageous, respectful soliloquy than what was just delivered,” he said. “Quite honestly, I honor you for it.”
Yet Needham made clear that in spite of the request — and a request by prosecution that he follow the recommendation of a pre-sentence investigation calling for probation and jail time — that he has ultimate discretion and could impose up to the 25-year maximum.
And when considering how to dispense justice in the case, Needham said a rule requiring judges to consider whether probation would undermine the seriousness of the crime weighed most heavily on him.
It would, he said, and sentenced Martin to four years in prison and six years on extended supervision.
The announcement drew gasps and sobs from the attendees in the courtroom as Needham sat silent. After a pause, he spelled out that he would stay imposition of the sentence in lieu of six years on probation, 10 months in jail, and a highly specific set of probationary conditions.
In addition to maintaining absolute sobriety and being subject to random substance testing, Needham ordered Martin to pay $250 a month toward an education fund for Cloutier’s son.
The judge noted how difficult it was to read in a report how the boy placed a wreath at the crash site on the anniversary of Cloutier’s death. As part of the sentence, he ordered Martin to place a wreath at the site each year “and take that burden off Jordan’s son.”
Martin must also perform 200 hours of community service and participate in a victim-impact panel.
Needham said she must serve the first four months of her jail sentence immediately and then one month each for the balance of her probation during times that coincide with Cloutier’s birthday.
The torrent of emotions inundating the hearing from beginning to end appeared to wear heavily on Martin, whose face was wrenched in anguish as she turned to look at her family after hearing Rud’s speech.
Nelson said Martin’s remorse and accountability has been genuine since the beginning of the case. Her statement to the court conveyed a similar sentiment.
“I’m probably the last person that anyone wants to hear talk right now,” Martin said, choking back tears before saying “how awful I feel, how sorry that I am.”
If she could trade places with Cloutier, “I would,” she said.