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Grieving Father Sues Democratic Lawmaker Behind the Wheel in Crash that Left 5-Year-Old Daughter Dead


Wisconsin State Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Mason).

The father of a 5-year-old who was killed in a multi-car crash involving a Wisconsin state senator has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Democratic leader and others.

Pennsylvania man Brandon Fink, the father of 5-year-old Khaleesi Fink, filed the civil case on Friday in Ashland County Circuit Court in Wisconsin. One of the several named defendants is driver Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Mason). Bewley represents a state senate district that covers the northwestern section of Wisconsin along Lake Superior. Bewley is also the senate minority leader.

The accident occurred on July 22, 2022, and involved a car driven by Khaleesi Fink’s mother, Alyssa Ortman, 27; one driven by Bewley, 70; and one driven by a third person, Jodi Munson, 45. Khaleesi Fink was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Ortman was transported to a local hospital but died shortly thereafter. Bewley was not seriously injured in the crash.

The Associated Press reported Tuesday that it obtained a crash report from the Ashland Police Department. The report is said to indicate that Bewley was distracted by her hands-free mobile phone at the time of the crash.

Citing the same or similar police documents, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Bewley exited a parking area at Maslowski Beach along Lake Superior and drove into the path of Ortman’s car on U.S. Highway 2. Ortman’s car then spun across the highway and was hit by Munson’s vehicle.

The posted speed limit in that section of U.S. 2 is 45 miles per hour. The highway is five lanes wide:  two lanes travel in each direction, and a median lane allows for left-hand turns.

Photos taken by the local newspaper and video from a local television station showed two severely mangled vehicles at the scene; one minivan had front-end damage.

The Journal-Sentinel also said one of its interns was the person to whom Bewley was speaking when the crash occurred. The topic of the conversation was “an interview he [the intern] had arranged with her staff about this fall’s elections for the Legislature,” according to the Milwaukee newspaper.

The wrongful death lawsuit names Bewley, Munson, and several insurance companies as defendants. Fink is requesting a jury trial and seeks damages of more than $10,000. The complaint alleges that Bewley, Munson, and Ortman were all negligent and therefore responsible for Khaleesi Fink’s death. More specifically, Fink asserts that Bewley failed to maintain a proper lookout, disregarded the right of way, and drove in a distracted state.

Fink says that Munson and Ortman also failed to maintain a proper lookout and that the two failed to maintain the proper speed while driving.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Ashland District Attorney did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s inquiries as to whether the accident investigation would lead to the filing of criminal charges. The Journal-Sentinel, however, said the DA’s office was “in the process of reviewing investigation reports to determine whether charges will be filed.”

When contacted for comment by Law&Crime, Sen. Bewley’s representative provided the following statement, which was issued shortly after the accident occurred:

Senator Bewley was involved in a three-vehicle accident in Ashland, Wisconsin on Friday, July 22nd. Tragically, two people lost their lives. This is a heartbreaking event for the community. Our thoughts and prayers are focused on the individuals involved, their families and their loved ones. Senator Bewley, who was not seriously injured in the accident, wants to thank all the dedicated law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who helped in the aftermath of the accident. A police investigation is ongoing. Out of respect for that investigation and the privacy of all the families involved, our office will be withholding further comment at this time. Thank you for your patience and concern.

[Screengrab via WDSE/WRPT]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos