Defense: victim may be at fault in Pinellas DUI manslaughter cas - WFLA News Channel 8

Defense: victim may be partly at fault in Pinellas DUI manslaughter case

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Patrick Vosbein's parents say there no justice for their son 20 months after he died in a DUI crash. Patrick Vosbein's parents say there no justice for their son 20 months after he died in a DUI crash.
PINELLAS COUNTY, FL -

Defense lawyer Rex Blake told Pinellas Circuit Judge R. Timothy Peters Monday that his client in a DUI manslaughter case Garret Bruce deserves less punishment.

Blake explained that's because the passenger in his car Patrick Vosbein was also drinking and not wearing a seatbelt the night Bruce crashed into a power pole at 70 miles per hour in Tarpon Springs about two years ago.

"This is a pretty mitigating DUI," Blake said in a whispered conversation at the judge's bench. "The deceased wasn't wearing a seatbelt so that's a pretty good negotiations."

Blake said his client Bruce is willing to plead guilty in exchange for no more than seven years in prison.

Vosbein's family says the 26-year-old passenger in Bruce's car died from a brain hemorrhage three days after the Dec. 11, 2011 crash.

His parents, who drove here from Mississippi and Tennessee, were in court Monday when Blake told the judge their son's failure to wear a seatbelt and his intoxication the night of the crash was a good bargaining chip in ongoing plea negotiations to reduce the punishment for Bruce.

"If I could work on the victim's family a little bit," Blake said. "There have been some negotiations with them."

"I want the maximum guidelines," said Vosbein's mother Patricia Walker. "No deal."

Prosecutor Greg Groger says state guidelines call for Bruce to spend 10 and a half years in prison.

Vosbein's mother and father didn't hear a word of Blake's statements to the judge Monday because Blake had asked for permission to approach the bench for a private on-the-record discussion.

The entire discussion was out of the earshot of everyone except Groger and the court audio system that records all open court proceedings.

After News Channel 8 obtained a copy of the court audio and informed Vosbein's parents what Blake said, they were outraged.

"He's trying to blame the victim," said Chris Vosbein, Patrick's father. "He's just trying to deflect blame off on my son."

"He's not going to blame my son for this," said Walker. "My son's not here to defend himself but his mom is."

Blake also told the judge he's not prepared for the DUI manslaughter trial that was supposed to begin Tuesday, even though he's had a year to prepare a defense.

"I haven't taken the deposition of the accident reconstructionist and some of the key witnesses," Blake told the judge.

Peters wasn't pleased at the prospect of a last minute delay on the eve of Bruce's trial and reshuffling his busy courtroom calendar.

But Peters did grant Blake's motion to put off the DUI trial indefinitely so that Blake can complete his trial preparation and ongoing plea negotiations—talks which Groger and Vosbein's parents insist are nonexistent.

"We're not going to take any plea deals," said Walker.

"I've got a lot of cases gentleman," Peters told Blake and Groger during the bench conference. "I'll set another pretrial if that's what you want. I'm not going to set another trial date and if that rubs somebody the wrong way, I'm sorry."

Vosbein's parents say no one is any sorrier than them, and now that they know what the hushed bench discussion was about they are definitely rubbed the wrong way.

"This is not the way people are supposed to receive justice," said Vosbein's father Chris. "It's ridiculous."

Blake refused to comment after Bruce's pretrial hearing and did not return several calls made to his office Tuesday regarding his whispered statements to the judge during Monday's bench conference. The next pretrial date is Oct. 14.

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