Chesterton Tribune

Portage man pleads guilty to OWI in fatal U.S. 20 accident

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A Portage man who Porter Police said was driving drunk when he turned into the path of a Michigan City man’s car on U.S. Highway 12 in August 2008, in a crash which killed the Michigan City man, has pleaded guilty to a charge of operating while intoxicated causing-death.

Brian Alan Otto, 25, of 2355 Hickory St., will face a maximum sentence of four years in the Indiana Department of Correction when sentenced by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 19, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Bennett told the Chesterton Tribune today.

OWI-causing death is a Class C felony punishable by a term of two to eight years. It is a Class B felony—punishable by a term of six to 20 years—when the offender is aged 21 or older and was driving with a blood alcohol content of .15 percent or higher or has a prior OWI conviction.

Otto is older than 21 but registered a B.A.C. of .12 percent and apparently has no prior history, Bennett noted.

According to Porter Police, at approximately 6:52 p.m. on Aug. 19, 2008, Otto was westbound on U.S. 20 in a Ford pickup truck when he attempted to turn left onto southbound Wagner Road and struck the driver’s side door of a Honda passenger car driven by Lance Stroobandt, 37, of Michigan City.

Stroobandt was pronounced dead at the scene after a lengthy extrication by Porter firefighters. Police said that he sustained contusions to both lungs, severe trauma to his heart, laceration of the liver, and a broken neck. Cause of death: multiple blunt force trauma.

Otto subsequently advised police that he had been drinking with friends at the beach and was headed for The Village in Porter for something to eat at the time of the crash, Officer Tawni Komisarcik stated in her probable cause affidavit. Otto further advised that, as he approached Wagner Road, a vehicle eastbound in the inside lane was slowing to turn left onto northbound Wagner Road and that he believed he could turn in front of it. But he did not see Stroobandt eastbound in the outside lane of U.S. 20, Komisarcik stated.

One full and one empty 16-ounce beer bottle were recovered from the back seat of Otto’s truck, Komisarcik stated. On an initial blood test conducted at 9:16 p.m. Otto registered a B.A.C. of .12 percent and then on a second test conducted at 9:40 p.m. he registered a B.A.C. of .09 percent, Komisarcik stated.

Motorists in Indiana are considered legally intoxicated when they score a B.A.C. of .08 percent or higher.

Otto had been charged with four felonies and four misdemeanors. Under the plead-and-argue agreement with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the other seven lesser-and-included charges will be dismissed and Otto’s term in DOC capped at four years.

The agreement does permit Otto to argue for an alternative sentence of community corrections, which would provide for home detention and day-reporting.

Bennett did say that the plea agreement leaves the state exactly where it would be if Otto had gone to trial and been convicted on the charge of OWI-causing death. Otto’s incentive in pleading guilty is this, Bennett explained: if Otto had been convicted, he would not have had the opportunity—as he does under the plea agreement—to argue acceptance of responsibility as a mitigating factor in his bid for community corrections.



Posted 10/20/2009