Bail Massively Reduced for Illegal Alien in DUI Crash That Killed Washington State Trooper

NYPD police car. (Credit: Michael Förtsch on Unsplash)

In a highly controversial decision, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent has decreased bail for Raul Benitez Santana, who is accused of hitting and killing Washington State Trooper Christopher Gadd while allegedly driving under the influence in March. The ruling has angered members of the community, including the family of the victim.

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Santana is currently being held at the Snohomish County Jail, and is facing charges of vehicular assault and vehicular homicide involving alcohol or drugs. The judge reduced his bail from $1 million to $100,000:

Since the crash early in the morning of March 2, Raul Benitez Santana has remained in the Snohomish County Jail facing charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. He allegedly consumed cannabis and beer before driving on I-5 south near Marysville, where Gadd was parked on the shoulder.

Benitez Santana, 33, drove on the shoulder and crashed into Gadd’s patrol car, according to the charges. Gadd, 27, died at the scene. Data from Benitez Santana’s GMC Yukon Denali reportedly showed he was driving 112 mph seconds before the crash.

The defendant’s blood, sampled about 1½ hours after the crash, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.083, just above the legal limit, according to court documents filed last month.

Gadd’s widow, Cammryn, wrote a letter to the judge criticizing the decision, saying that decreasing Santana’s bail “would not only undermine the severity of the crime but also inflict further anguish and distress upon [her, their child,] and the rest of [their] family.”

She also argued that “[r]eleasing him on such a low bail would set a dangerous precedent and could potentially put others at risk.”

Santana had been residing in the country illegally:

An ICE official confirmed Santana is a citizen of Mexico, and was in the U.S. unlawfully after entering the country at an unknown date and time. ICE placed an immigration detainer on Santana following his arrest.

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The defendant had been living illegally in Washington for at least a decade:

To make matters even worse, Santana had a long and storied history of legal troubles.

Benitez Santana entered the U.S. at an unknown time, but Seattle Enforcement and Removal Operations first encountered him in 2013, when he was arrested for failing to make a court appearance after he was accused of driving on a suspended license.

That same year, Benitez Santana was convicted of possession of marijuana and sentenced to 90 days incarcerated, but 87 of the days were suspended.

He has a history of other convictions as well, including multiple convictions for driving with a suspended license, multiple tickets for speeding more than 49 mph over the speed limit and several orders of protection for domestic violence.

Nevertheless, Santana’s attorneys asked the court to release his client from jail, insisting that he is not at risk for committing other crimes or dodging court hearings. The attorney claimed “his parents will welcome him back into their home,” and that Santana “is not a flight risk.”

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