Charges tell tale: driver’s night of partying and deaths of two cyclists

Wisconsin Bike Fed

A criminal complaint filed in Waukesha County explains how a 20-year-old driver killed two Northwestern Mutual Insurance executives, as the cycling buddies pedaled south on Highway 36 in Muskego.

Brett Harley

Brett Hartley stayed up all night drinking at a party in Richfield, fell asleep while driving to Burlington about 6 a.m. June 6 and crashed into Paul Brown, 45, and Anthony Oliver, 54, at about 55 miles per hour. At the scene, his blood-alcohol level registered .06 percent, even though Hartley told police he had stopped drinking alcohol about midnight.

As a 20-year-old, Hartley violated a state statute spelled out on the inside cover of the Wisconsin Motorists Handbook, the “Not a Drop” law. “Drivers under age 21 can be arrested for driving with any amount of alcohol in their bodies.”

Driving with a BAC above zero could cost the young man his driver’s license.

Killing the two men could cost him 50 years in prison.

Waukesha County Dist. Atty. Timothy Suha charged Hartley, of South Milwaukee, with two counts of second-degree reckless homicide, felony charges that each carry a maximum prison term of 25 years. The defendant is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 27.

According to the police, the crash happened on the southbound lanes of HWY 36.

According to the complaint, Hartley initially denied that he consumed alcohol at the party, then later admitted people handed him drinks while he played songs on his phone and served as DJ. A friend who traveled to the party with him told police that cocktails of vodka and fruit juice circulated throughout the gathering.

Hartley left Richfield with two friends between 5:30 and 6 a.m., and tried to stop in South Milwaukee because he was tired. One of the friends insisted that he drive her to Burlington, and they headed south on Highway 36.

Tony Oliver

Hartley told police he fell asleep several times before reaching Muskego Dam Road, and turned on the heat in an unsuccessful attempt to stay awake.

Motorists traveling behind him reported that he crossed over the rumble strips and on to the shoulder several times, and deviated in speed by 10 to 15 miles per hour. A woman drove alongside the jeep and honked her horn in an attempt to wake him.

Eventually, he came upon Brown and Oliver, two men out for one of their routine training rides. Oliver was gearing up for the 112-mile bike leg of Ironman Wisconsin in September.

One witness said Hartley “could not have hit the bicyclist(s) in any more deliberate of fashion, unless it was planned,” the complaint states.

Hartley and his companions said they were awakened by the sound of shattering glass – the impact of Brown and Oliver crashing into the windshield.

One of the men died at the scene. The other was pronounced dead at Froedtert Memorial Hospital.

It’s hard to fathom what message the Wisconsin Bike Fed or the Wisconsin Department of Transportation could share to prevent a tragedy like this. The laws regarding drunken driving and absolute sobriety are taught to everyone licensed to drive in the state, and are highlighted in bold print in the Wisconsin Motorists Handbook. For free education for all road users to make people walking and biking safer visit Share And Be Aware

Paul Brown

Still, I doubt that many who read the handbook or get behind the wheel think about the possible ramifications, beyond a possible ticket. In this case, the ramifications are horrendous: a husband and father dead, a husband dead, two families grieving and a 20-year-old man likely to spend his youth behind bars and live the rest of his life with regret.

Hopefully, all of that will serve as a more powerful reminder than the state laws, or the motorists handbook.



4 thoughts on “Charges tell tale: driver’s night of partying and deaths of two cyclists

  1. One can only hope that our justice system keeps this person away from our transportation system (and even society in general) for a long, long time.

  2. Undoubtedly he will sit behind bars for some time. I’d rather see lifetime revocation, which attacks the behavior (or the inability to change it) directly. The statute actually stipulates longer prison time (25 yrs) than revocation (5yrs), which is questionable to me.

  3. It is naïve to judge this 20 year old so harshly for a TERRIBLE accident. There are MANY, MANY more people out there (of ALL AGES) who are driving drunk, high, without licenses, etc. I feel sad for this young man, who because he let peer pressure (the girl who INSISTED he drive her to Waterford, when he clearly said he was very tired – that’s the mentality these days…???), will probably get the maximum and spend the best years of his life behind bars. All the while, REAL criminals (those I set out above) are still out there, driving around on our roads – and are a danger to us all. Thoughts and prayers to the families of the two men killed – as well as to the family of this young man. Too bad they can’t prosecute the bratty “friend” who coerced him to drive her sorry butt home!

  4. More Education and Infrastructure are the all too typical responses to MV-on-Bicycle crashes. The safety of everybody, not just those on bikes, will not significantly improve (IMHO) until we make the statement “Driving is a Privilege, not a Right” actually true rather than semi-true. It is far too easy to get a driver’s license and also very difficult to have it taken away. The safety of biking in certain European countries is tied not only to infrastructure but to the far more intense driver training required and the much higher levels of accountability that drivers face if they strike a cyclist or pedestrian. Changing the “Driver Privilege” mindset will a long, difficult haul because the empathy of juries (“hey that could be me some day”) is w/ the motorist rather than the cyclist. Keep focus on “people are people regardless of how they chose to travel on public right of way”.

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