West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Guilty plea for driver who deliberately hit two teens after dog dispute

(WSB photo from the aftermath of the incident in November 2012)
Another West Seattle criminal case of note has ended in a plea bargain. Checking the cases on our watch list, we just discovered that 38-year-old Amy Lynn O’Brien has pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and hit-and-run. She’s the woman arrested in November 2012 for deliberately driving her car into two Chief Sealth International High School students across the street from the school. According to charging documents, O’Brien was upset about the 17- and 18-year-old girls’ interaction with her unleashed dog, and came after them with a taser and then her car, hitting them while driving at an estimated 40 mph. Both were badly hurt; one girl’s ear was nearly severed. O’Brien turned herself in the next day and spent about a week in jail before being released on personal recognizance. Court documents related to the plea bargain say a six-month sentence will be recommended when she is sentenced May 30th.

33 Replies to "West Seattle Crime Watch followup: Guilty plea for driver who deliberately hit two teens after dog dispute"

  • ScubaFrog April 14, 2014 (9:30 am)

    6 months for running down two children in a car… That’s obscene.

  • Lindsey April 14, 2014 (9:43 am)

    Hopefully there will be some anger management classes or something along with that six month sentence. Because this person seems to have some serious issues that won’t be solved by a six month stint in jail.

  • Joe Szilagyi April 14, 2014 (9:48 am)

    It baffles me that such a crime isn’t attempted murder. If it had been with a gun or knife, it would have been.

  • colleen April 14, 2014 (11:00 am)

    This woman tried to kill 2 unarmed minors using her car as a weapon. One would think the justice system would, at the very least, take away her driver’s license. 6 months in jail is obscene. People like this are why we have jails.

  • Katie April 14, 2014 (11:06 am)

    This woman needs more than anger management, she needs mental health help.

  • dee kalani April 14, 2014 (11:07 am)

    6 months is a joke for this crime, she should do a year and clean dog kennels for another year.

  • Jason April 14, 2014 (1:14 pm)

    19 year old gets 13+ years for waving an unloaded gun around on a bus, 38 year old lady gets 6 months for actually hitting kids at 40mph with her car. Nice.

  • West Seattle since 1979 April 14, 2014 (1:22 pm)

    Definitely attempted murder. Ridiculous sentence!

  • K April 14, 2014 (1:59 pm)

    6 months is an embarrassment. This, and our light punishment for drunk driving, reminds me how our justice system fails to treat reckless driving seriously.

  • Seattle Dog Owners Must Change April 14, 2014 (2:01 pm)

    Wow! Only 6 months and I bet her dogs are still not leashed when they should be. Honestly, sometimes I feel like getting back at people who do not leash their dogs. As a dog lover and somebody who always leashes my doggies, I find the attitudes of some offenders to be ridiculous…defensive, righteous, and downright nasty. I hope those poor kids recover from their injuries unlike my daughter who still has a huge scar on her face from a dog attack on Alki last year.

  • pupsarebest April 14, 2014 (2:03 pm)

    A 6-month sentence for a crime of this magnitude is ridiculously short, and sends exactly the wrong message to those inclined toward violent “solutions”.
    I agree with the earlier posts suggesting this was a case of attempted murder.

  • ScubaFrog April 14, 2014 (2:10 pm)

    Jason exactly. It’s atrocious. In the comment thread about the 19 year old, people were calling for blood – they wanted him in jail “for life”. I don’t see that kind of outrage here, and this woman mowed down 2 kids at 40mph, in her car. The double-standard in this country regarding sentencing and race is appalling.

  • Ms. Sparkles April 14, 2014 (2:28 pm)

    Jason and ScubaFrog – not that its “right” but I think part of the huge diparities in the punishment for these equally deplorable crimes ( the fact that the 19 didn’t seriously injure someone was just dumb luck) is the assumed ability to pay restition.

    The 19 year old presumably has little or no assets and thus the only restition he’ll pay is from his prison earnings.

    The 38 year old presumably has assets (we know she has a car) and (hopefully) when these girls’ parents are finished with the civil suits against her she’ll have nothing.

    I would prefer to see the 19 yr old do a year or 2 in prison that includes education and intensive counseling and THEN 5 years probation / community service that includes listening to each of his victims as they recount how his actions affected them and then writing them each letters of apology.

    BUT it’s cheaper to wherehouse him for 7 yrs and then parole him.

  • Kravitz April 14, 2014 (2:34 pm)

    @Jason and @ScubaFrog – yes, this is disgusting and ridiculous. How can there be such a double-standard? I read the entire comment thread regarding the 19 y.o./gun incident and now this. It does tend to make one wonder about race and differences. I think this woman has made an equivalent horrible decision and used her vehicle as a potential deadly weapon, just as the robbery suspect did with a handgun. This woman should be charged with vehicular assault and attempted murder, and should have far more than 6 months in jail to think about her actions. Very unequal treatment here…

  • flimflam April 14, 2014 (4:43 pm)

    some very interesting sentences handed out by some judges…geez, a whole entire 6 months for basically trying to kill/maim two people? after (it sounds like) her off leash dog was the catalyst to the event? wow.

  • Jason April 14, 2014 (6:31 pm)

    @Kravitz – agreed! If it were a 19 year old black boy that ran into these girls with his car he’d most likely be locked up in prison for years. This woman is a savage and a menace to society. What a slap in the face to these girls and their parents.

  • Eric1 April 14, 2014 (6:44 pm)

    It isn’t so much unequal treatment as different circumstances. The 19yo you all refer to robbed people on multiple occasions. He showed a pattern of violent behavior using a firearm. I think the sentence was appropriate and more judges should follow this example.
    On the other hand, the judge might have considered this to be a one-time failure of the offender that might not reflect her true personality. Perhaps the judge needs to be almost killed by a car on purpose to understand how grave an offense this was. But alas, it seems the majority of the judges in Washington are a bit soft for my taste. I’d much rather see her serving more time but as others have said, drunk drivers also get away with murder in Washington.

  • Eric April 14, 2014 (7:26 pm)

    The 19 year old was not just waving a gun around on bus. A 19 year old was using a gun (which ups the charges considerably) to strong arm rob people. The 19 year old premeditated robbing people with a gun. The 19 year old was charged in a 2nd bus robbery. The 19 year old confessed to multiple robberies and burglaries within the last couple of years. The 19 year old stated that he had no regrets for what he did.

    That being said, this is an absolutely ridiculous sentencing for this woman! How do you get 6 months for this crime and I’d be furious if I were the victims’ family. This is absurd! This is like the kid getting off with 10 years probation for a DUI that killed four people on the basis he had “affluenza” it is this type of ridiculousness that I find infuriating!

    I hope that justice at least comes to the victims in civil court.

    I don’t think the 19 year old should get a lighter sentence, but that this person get a longer sentence.

  • Jason April 14, 2014 (9:23 pm)

    Eric, I’m not sure the 19 year old was really charged for the other bus robbery so much as he (probably at the advice of his public defender) plead guilty to everything they suspected him of doing, not just the incident in West Seattle. That was probably their way of stacking a bunch of stuff up on top of a person that had no actual priors on his record. I’m not an attorney or a legal expert, so I don’t exactly know how that worked out but surely we can all admit this kid didn’t get the level of defense the woman in this article did.
    Regardless, I think 13+ years be excessive for someone who never actually injured anyone during his crimes. Yes he was running amok and I’m glad he was caught and he should be accountable for his actions but man, am I the only one here that is thinking about how long 13 years in prison really is?
    Back to the topic at hand. This woman actually did injure two people, two students. And we don’t even know what condition these girls are in today, for all we know they have permanent brain damage. This woman is a maniac and I completely agree with you that her sentence is a joke. I guess there’s information we don’t know about either of these cases but it certainly seems lopsided.

  • elaine April 14, 2014 (9:40 pm)

    6 mos. will be recommended at sentencing — maybe the recommendation will change before that time?

    6 mos. doesn’t sound like justice or appropriate time for this type of crime — she very easily could have killed someone and just got lucky she didn’t hurt them worse than she did. I imagine she’s had other out of control rages before — but perhaps she’s just never been called on it. Maybe part of the judge’s sentence will involve a psych evaluation — definitely something going on with her that isn’t on the bell curve for normal behavior.

  • Dale April 14, 2014 (11:10 pm)

    ScubaFrog..I’m in agreement. 6 months? Why should she be rewarded for not being successful in killing someone? She is still a crazed party.

  • m April 14, 2014 (11:26 pm)

    Hard to see where the justice is for the students who were injured by her.

  • Fred April 14, 2014 (11:37 pm)

    Jason…let it go about the little jerk who robs people at gun point…

  • sophista-tiki April 15, 2014 (5:01 am)

    um, unleashed dog!!!

  • Jordan April 15, 2014 (6:56 am)

    I have to agree with most everyone here. 6 months for assault with a deadly weapon seems to be leaning towards the no punishment side of things. The idea that using “just a car” as your weapon of choice means no actual punishment, needs to change. A car, when used as this lady used it, is nothing more than a weapon.

  • kevin April 15, 2014 (2:01 pm)

    hopefully the judge will have some sense and sentence this woman to at least a year in jail.

  • Jason April 15, 2014 (4:50 pm)

    Fred, you’re not the boss of me.

  • SD April 15, 2014 (10:18 pm)

    Wow. Six months for what is essentially assault with a deadly weapon is a travesty! I hope the judge is allowed to and will impose a higher sentence than recommended.

  • jessica April 15, 2014 (11:14 pm)

    im one of the victims and I have a weird dent that recently formed exactly where I got hit on my left leg and my joints on my rightt leg crack most of the time since then and I have memory problems cause I had a severe concussion and I was left partially blind in my right eye and I can hear more on my left ear than my right for those who wanted to know… I had counseling for a bit because I was terrified of the sound of speeding cars or when a car accelerates … I now have a sleeping disorder and vertigo… but its ok cause im happy to be alive and managed to go to a military academy 2 weeks after I learned to walk again ….

  • cj April 16, 2014 (10:34 am)

    Ether the woman was deranged or desperate or both. I do have to point out that these two young women age 18 and 17 are not what most would call “children”. I don’t know what led to this but I wonder if the woman was on medications? or somebody did or threatened to do something to her dog [or maybe it just seemed that way to her]. Some people are just really attached to their pets and feel like they are their children. At any rate maybe a mental evaluation might shed some light. Hope the healing for the young women goes well, don’t give up hope.

  • Lola April 16, 2014 (6:13 pm)

    Jessica, so good to hear that you are getting on with your life. It sounds like it was very tramatic for you and your friend. I hope they take in to consideration how you two are today and if there is permanent damage. Is there restitution for you also?

    I know my son was assaulted by a road rage idiot when he was only 16 and it took him quite a while to over-come it. The state took him to court and the only thing my son learned from it was that if you have enough money and you are a good liar that you can get off scott free.

    It sounds like you are on the right track for getting on with your life.

  • Gina April 16, 2014 (7:44 pm)

    At the time of the incident, the girls petted the loose dog that ran up to them on the sidewalk. The woman then got in her car and ran them over. That is what the witnesses saw.

  • waterworld April 16, 2014 (11:38 pm)

    It is at least possible that what people have read about his case is woefully incomplete, and that if you had all the information the prosecutors and defense attorneys do, the six month recommendation would not seem so outrageous. One thing that gets lost in media reports is that the charging documents do not necessarily represent the “facts.” The police reports document (some) statements by witnesses during the initial investigation. There is much more investigation that follows after the arrest in a case like this one. As often as not, the investigation reveals new and different facts, misperceptions, inconsistencies, exaggerations, or even outright lies. Take, for instance, the assertions that the car was going 40 mph and that one of the victims was thrown 20 feet into the air. These are not necessarily true facts; they are what witnesses said to the police. Forensic accident reconstruction often shows that eyewitness accounts of speed and distance are way off the mark.
    An erroneous statement about how fast a car was going might simply be a mistake. Not all of the inaccurate statements in police reports are mistakes, though. People sometimes lie or exaggerate when they talk to the police. And I don’t mean just suspects. By the time investigators sift through all of the eyewitness statements, other statements, medical records, and forensic evidence, they frequently discover that the crime charged does not reflect what can be proven in court. If the prosecutors determine they cannot prove the case that was charged, they may offer or agree to a plea and sentence recommendation more in line with the case they really can prove. To someone who has not seen the evidence that was developed in between the time of the arrest or charging and the time of the plea, the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation may seem inappropriate.
    Unless you were involved in either the police department’s investigation, or the investigation conducted by defense attorneys, you may never know everything the investigation revealed. The documents transcribed and posted on WSB do not include what was learned during the full investigation of the case. That information may never show up in a public court file.
    Beyond that neither this blog nor most other news media provide sufficient explanations of the law and how it applies in any specific case. The comments to this post and others demonstrate misunderstandings of legal issues — or maybe just disagreements with them. For instance, an assault is not an attempted murder, and it will not be charged as such. Prosecutors do not charge attempted murder unless there is evidence of intent to actually kill someone. The fact that the defendant’s conduct could have resulted in a death does not make the conduct attempted murder – that’s not the legal standard for intent to kill.
    Another example from this thread is the comment about restitution: a person’s ability to pay restitution does not play a role in charging decisions, and only very rarely in plea negotiations, because the court is required to impose restitution in every case. Criminal history works the same way, for the most part. Prosecutors are not generally looking at criminal history to decide whether a suspect committed this crime or that crime, unless the charge might trigger a persistent offender law (three strikes you’re out, two strikes you’re out, etc.). Rather, they look at the evidence that’s been collected and charge crimes that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. They revisit the charging decision as the trial date approaches and determine whether the evidentiary landscape has changed. If it has, they may agree to a plea like this one.

Sorry, comment time is over.