DA: No charges in fatal crash involving Sen. Bewley

Investigations have concluded into the fatal crash involving Wisconsin State Sen. Janet Bewley, and Ashland County District Attorney David Meany says no criminal charges will be filed.

The accident happened before 12:30p.m. on July 22, 2022. Alyssa Ortman was driving her father’s vehicle with her minor daughter in the car. Ortman was driving on US Highway 2 in Ashland, near the intersection of Sanborn Avenue, towards Turner Road. Authorities say Ortman’s vehicle was traveling 100mph at the time of the crash. The speed limit is 45mph.

Sen. Bewley’s vehicle had been parked between the Blue Wave parking area and the Maslowski Beach parking area. Bewley told investigators she intended to cross the two lanes of traffic and make a left turn about half-a-mile down. Ortman’s vehicle collided with Bewley’s, then spun across the road and was struck by another SUV.

Bewley told investigators that knowing the speed limit, she felt that oncoming cars were far enough away that she had time to cross the lines of traffic to reach her turn lane. Bewley said she got to the median lane, and that’s when she was struck by Ortman’s car.

The Wisconsin State Patrol conducted a forensic investigation of Orman’s vehicle. Five seconds before the crash, the car was travelling 94mph. That speed increased to 100mph 1.5 seconds before the collision, and remained at 100mph until .5 seconds after the crash. The breaks were not activated until 1 second before the collision.

Law enforcement reports include a toxicology report of a blood sample taken after the accident. Ortman had a detectable amount of a controlled substance, Delta 9 THC, in her blood at the time of the accident. Sen. Bewley provided an evidentiary blood sample as well, which did not show the presence of any ethanol or substance that could have impaired her operation of a vehicle.

On that day, Bewley was on the way to a medical appointment for a checkup after an eye appointment the day before. The medical evidence shows that there were no restrictions placed on Bewley’s activities after that operation, and there is no evidence that Bewley’s eyesight was impaired at the time of the accident.

The accident has been thoroughly investigated by the City of Ashland Police Department and the Wisconsin State Patrol. Neither agency referred any potential criminal charges to the Ashland County District Attorney’s Office, but DA Meany felt it his responsibility to independently review the evidence, to consider whether any criminal charges against any involved party were appropriate.

Based on the evidence, the District Attorney does not believe there is sufficient evidence to believe the State could meet its burden of establishing all elements of a violation, and does not intend to file any criminal charges.

The full statement from Ashland County District Attorney David Meany can be read here.