Jason Soto, injured in a car crash that killed his friend and driver Daniel Bazan, 18, is being charged with one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor for bringing alcohol to a party before the crash.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said this week that he plans to file the criminal charge.
Hummel said in an email that the charge is “based on the allegation that on August 12, 2017, he brought alcohol to a party and made it available to underage people. Daniel Bazan was at this party, and after the party he crashed his car and died.”
Hummel said there is evidence that Bazan drank prior to driving, but his impairment level at the time of the crash is unknown. Because Bazan died, a full investigation including a blood test was deemed not necessary. Speeding was ruled the primary cause of the crash.
Soto is not being charged specifically for supplying the alcohol Bazan drank before the crash. Hummel said he is unable to determine if there was other alcohol at the party, which Bazan could have drunk. Soto is charged only for making alcohol available to minors at the party.
The accident happened about 3:50 a.m. Aug. 12 on NE Ninth Street between NE Emerson and NE Alden avenues, directly across Ninth Street from Bend High School. Police say Bazan was driving a 1997 blue Plymouth Neon north on Ninth Street “at a high rate of speed and left the roadway, striking a tree.”
Soto, 20, was the sole passenger of the car. He was taken to St. Charles Bend and was in critical condition following the accident.
Andrew Doyle, Soto’s attorney, said Soto has been released from the hospital and is continuing to recover, but the road toward rehabilitation will be long.
“He’s taking it one day at a time,” Doyle said.
Bazan was a standout athlete at Bend High School and graduated in the spring. He was a first-team all-league running back for the school’s football team, rushing for more than 1,200 yards last season. He wrestled and ran track. Soto was also a former Bend High School student.
The decision to charge Soto likely will affect Soto’s other criminal cases. Soto was on diversion for a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants in October 2016. He also has a pending third-degree theft charge for allegedly stealing items worth less than $100 from Safeway. Hummel said before this charge, he was planning to revoke Soto’s diversion on the DUII because he was charged with theft.
Doyle said he likely will work for what he called a “global resolution,” meaning all three charges would be consolidated into one case and would be adjudicated at the same time, although he said it’s too early to say whether the new charge will have a direct effect on the specific outcome of the other cases.
Doyle said he has been in contact with Hummel regarding the most recent case.
“I appreciate John’s thoughtfulness on the charging decision,” Doyle said. “I appreciate him reaching out to me. I think John did a very thorough job in investigating this.”
Soto is scheduled to be arraigned on the new charge Dec. 15 during a scheduled plea hearing on the theft charge.
Doyle said Soto is presumed innocent, and the attorney will investigate the claims. Overall, he said the most important thing is that Soto survived the crash and is working toward recovery.
“It’s a stark reminder of the fragility of life,” Doyle said.
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