Man charged with death of Mitch York is back in custody facing new manslaughter charge


Schrantz booking photo.

Joel Schrantz, the man with a long driving record who was driving on a suspended license when he failed to control his car and allowed it to slam into and kill Mitch York on the St. Johns Bridge last month, is back in custody.

After being initially arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, Schrantz posted $2,000 bail (10 percent of total bail amount) and was set free pending trial. We confirmed with residents in his St. Johns neighborhood that he was indeed back at home. We also confirmed with the District Attorney’s office that Schrantz was under court mandate to check-in with law enforcement everyday and was not allowed to drive a car.

This past Tuesday, Schrantz was back in court to face formal charges in the case. According to Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Waner, the Grand Jury returned an indictment for the enhanced charge of manslaughter in the second degree (ORS 163.125). This is significant because manslaughter is a much more serious crime than criminally negligent homicide.

Manslaughter in the second degree is a Measure 11 crime in Oregon, which means it comes with a longer minimum prison sentence and higher bail amount than criminally negligent homicide (a charge that falls outside of Measure 11). Schrantz’s new bail amount is $250,000. Oregon law allows defendants to pay 10 percent of that amount, so Schrantz would have to come up with $25,000 to get out of custody.

The elevated charge also means the DA will have more to prove in order to find Schrantz guilty. Instead of finding him merely “negligent,” the DA will have to prove that his action were “reckless.” Those words have different meanings in Oregon law.

Here’s the statutory definition of criminal negligence in Oregon:

… means that a person fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

And here’s the definition of reckless:

…means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

If found guilty, Schrantz would face a minimum of 75 months in prison and would likely lose his driving privileges for the rest of his life. His current trial date is scheduled for December 28th.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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