Prosecutors: Burgess incriminated himself willingly




  • In US
  • 2022-11-30 14:05:00Z
  • By Daily Inter Lake, Kalispell, Mont.

Nov. 30-A despondent Bradley Keith Burgess willingly incriminated himself in statements made to emergency responders following a deadly - and allegedly drunken - summertime vehicle wreck, prosecutors say in newly filed court documents.

Burgess, 37, of Missoula faces a felony count of vehicular homicide while under the influence in Flathead County District Court stemming from the Aug. 27 crash. He pleaded not guilty in September to the charge and remains in county jail with bail set at $200,000.

In previous court filings, prosecutors alleged that Burgess was behind the wheel of a pickup that drove off the shoulder of South Fork Road. As the truck rolled down the embankment, the passenger - identified as Stephanie Casaulong - was ejected and killed, court documents said.

Burgess admitted to drinking alcohol prior to the accident, according to an affidavit filed in support of the charge brought against him. He also smelled of an alcoholic beverage, boasted bloodshot eyes and stood unsteadily, court documents said.

In a motion filed earlier this month, defense attorney Maury Solomon sought to see statements Burgess made at the scene suppressed in the 37-year-old's upcoming trial. He argued that responding law enforcement officials and emergency medical responders encouraged Burgess to make self-incriminating statements before reading him his rights.

Those inducements included using emergency medical technicians to ask him about the crash in front of investigators - and their body cameras - and employing a ruse whereby they let Burgess call a relative within earshot of law enforcement, Solomon alleged.

"[Burgess] was in custody on a serious multi-agency criminal investigation," Solomon wrote in the motion. "By their actions, suggestions and direct questioning, law enforcement elicited incriminating statements without ever providing defendant routine Miranda advisements."

PROSECUTORS SAY law enforcement personnel were in bounds when speaking with and questioning Burgess in the moments following the wreck. Self-incriminating statements made at the scene were given willingly and unprompted, argued Deputy County Attorney Ashley Frechette in the state's response to Solomon's motion to suppress.

"...[T]he defendant's statements during his interactions with deputies were all spontaneously uttered or volunteered by the defendant," Frechette wrote in her Nov. 23 response. "Miranda advisories are not required before a person spontaneously utters incriminating information."

Moreover, a distraught Burgess wanted to share his version of events, Frechette wrote.

"At no point did the deputies ask the defendant what happened," she wrote. "Instead, the defendant was eagerly trying to explain to law enforcement what happened during the crash."

As for the alleged trick involving placing a mobile phone on the hood of a cruiser behind Burgess and asking him whether he wanted to call a relative, Frechette argued that law enforcement routinely put personal belongings on their vehicles to keep from misplacing them. They also offered to call a relative on his behalf, she wrote.

She described the act as a favor for Burgess, one he took as leave to phone a relative.

"[Burgess] proceeded to call a family member on his own phone and then told the family member how the crash occurred while deputies were standing next to him," Frechette wrote. "[His] statements to his family were volunteered and unprompted by law enforcement."

Frechette also refuted Solomon's claim that emergency medical personnel also encouraged Burgess to describe the crash. They are unconnected with law enforcement, she argued, and primarily concerned then with Burgess' well-being. Solomon's allegations also lacked evidence, she wrote.

"During the brief encounter with medics, there was no indication that the government spurred on medical providers to obtain information," she wrote. "Likewise, there is no indication whatsoever that the EMT personnel asked any questions or obtained any information to further a government investigation."

EVEN AFTER a Montana Highway Patrol trooper placed Burgess into a patrol car, the 37-year-old was not yet in custody and thus not requiring a reading of his rights, Frechette argued. Montana law requires motorists involved in a fatal crash to provide personal information to responding authorities, she wrote. That same section of state code lets authorities "briefly question" individuals when a crime is committed, according to the response.

She described the trooper's line of questioning as part of "conducting a crash investigation," and one where alcohol allegedly played a role. His queries focused on how the crash occurred, who was in the vehicle and whether seat belts were worn, among others.

"[Burgess] would answer these questions and then launch into a narrative recounting of events," Frechette wrote. "Essentially, providing more answers than requested by the questions posed to the defendant by [the trooper]."

She asked that Judge Robert Allison, who is overseeing the case, deny Solomon's request.

Allison has set aside three hours on Friday, Dec. 2 for a hearing on Solomon's request. Aside from that gathering, a status hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 7.

News Editor Derrick Perkins can be reached at 758-4430 or dperkins@dailyinterlake.com.

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