Governor reassigns Ryan Hester prosecution to outside State Attorney
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FORT PIERCE – Although Ryan Hester settles the manslaughter and homicide charges against DUI, he will face prosecutors from Palm Beach County, not the Treasure Coast, court records show.
That’s because 19-year-old Hester, currently incarcerated, is the son of St. Lucie County’s Deputy Sheriff Brian Hester, who is running for sheriff in the 2024 election.
In papers filed on May 19, Governor Ron DeSantis approved a motion from Attorney Tom Bakkedahl to reassign Ryan Hester’s case outside of the 19th judicial district, which includes Martin, St. Lucie, Okeechobee and Indian River counties.
When advising the governor’s office, Bakkedahl found that Brian Hester “has a close working relationship with the prosecutor and has also announced his candidacy for the sheriff of St. Lucie County”.
Tom Bakkedahl (Photo: Contributed Photo by Tom Bakkedahl)
Bakkedahl, “in order to avoid a conflict of interest or the appearance of inappropriateness, has voluntarily disqualified himself,” says DeSantis’ reassignment warrant.
Prosecutor David Aronberg of the 15th District, which covers Palm Beach County, accepted the case, records show.
Ryan Hester surrendered to authorities on April 21 at the St. Lucie County Jail in connection with a fatal accident on February 7 in which Fort Pierce police reported that he drove twice as fast, according to arrest reports.
Palm Beach County Attorney Dave Aronberg [Bruce R. Bennett / The Palm Beach Post] (Photo: Bruce R. Bennett, The Palm Beach Post)
The crash occurred around 5:25 p.m. when Hester was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck south on South Indian River Drive. Police reported that he had crossed onto the northbound lane and collided head-on with a Nissan Altima.
The Altima driver, identified in the arrest files as Claudia Trewyn Bradley of Fort Pierce, was 32 years old.
According to reports, a blood sample taken from Hester around 7:50 p.m. in a hospital on police orders showed blood alcohol levels of 0.131 and 0.132, which are above the legal limit of 0.08.
April 22nd:Teenage boy arrested in fatal accident on Indian River Drive, Fort Pierce in February
April 28th:Pushback from residents could change Indian River Drive safety plans
May 14 for subscribers: The sheriff’s helicopter watches over Indian River Drive
Ryan Hester told police, prior to the crash, “he had a few glasses of alcohol” while hanging out with friends. He said he was drinking champagne.
Police used a surveillance video and reported that Ryan Hester was at the On the Edge Bar and Grill on Seaway Drive from about 12.50pm to 5.16pm and was seen drinking about 15 alcoholic beverages.
Upon leaving the facility, police said Ryan Hester’s vehicle suffered “burnout,” which means it accelerated quickly and the tires were spinning.
On the Edge Bar and Grill is approximately 5.2 miles from the scene of the accident.
Crash investigation markings can be seen on the 1200 block of South Indian River Drive on Thursday, February 25, 2021 in Fort Pierce. On February 7, a 32-year-old woman was killed in a car accident on the 1200 block of Indian River Drive. The scenery of South Indian River Drive has its price. Trees and power poles are often very close to the sidewalk, trees, bushes and shrubs can block the view of oncoming traffic in curves and most lanes do not have enough hard shoulders for emergencies at the roadside. (Photo: ERIC HASERT / TCPALM)
Ryan Hester’s attorney filed papers on April 22nd to reduce the $ 200,000 loan a judge ordered when he was taken into custody.
The motion filed by attorney Bob Watson states that Hester has lived in the district his entire life and “has shown no attempt to leave the area while the investigation was pending.”
“The defendant does not have sufficient funds to issue a $ 200,000 bond or similar,” said Watson.
A hearing on the matter has not taken place, according to records.
His next court date is July 14th.
Traffic passes the area around the 1200 block of South Indian River Drive in Fort Pierce on Thursday, February 25, 2021. On February 7, a 32-year-old woman was killed in a car accident on the 1200 block of Indian River Drive. The scenery of South Indian River Drive has its price. Trees and power poles are often very close to the sidewalk, trees, bushes and shrubs can block the view of oncoming traffic in curves and most lanes do not have enough hard shoulders for emergencies at the roadside. (Photo: ERIC HASERT / TCPALM)
Another motion, filed on May 20, calls for the return of personal property that Watson claims in court files that allegedly have no evidential value but were in Ryan Hester’s vehicle when it was confiscated after his arrest.
“The defendant must return this property so that it can fund his defense,” wrote attorney Bob Watson, without naming any items.
And because the vehicle is the subject of an insured event, Ryan Hester would like an appraiser to take photos of the vehicle being observed.
Watson declined to comment on the motion or discuss the case.
Both Hesters were sued in 2019 by a Fort Pierce woman and her teenage child in connection with a collision alleged by Ryan Hester of causing October 11, 2019 at the intersection of Midway Road and US 1 in St. Lucie County.
According to the lawsuit, Brian Hester owned the 1999 pickup truck that his son was driving around 11 p.m. when he “negligently operated the vehicle so that he would not give way” of a car that was being driven by Martha Egers. and caused a collision. “
Egers attorney Andrew Sholtes said his client had the green arrow to turn south on US 1 and when she turned Ryan Hester “met her on the passenger side.”
In court files, Ryan Hester denied that he was negligent in operating his vehicle and that he was responsible for the collision.
Records show that Ryan Hester was not quoted in the crash.
His North Palm Beach attorney, Joseph Lee, who was both representing Hester, was unavailable for comment.
Egers’ lawsuit alleged that she and her 17-year-old daughter were injured and suffered permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering, and medical and related costs.
A $ 45,000 settlement offer was approved Wednesday by a judge who, according to court records, dismissed all claims against Ryan and Brian Hester.
“It was a scary experience for you (Egers) and your daughter,” Sholtes said after the court on Wednesday. “She’s grateful it wasn’t worse.”
Melissa E. Holsman is a legal reporter for TCPalm and Treasure Coast Newspapers, and is the author and co-host of Uncertain Terms, a true crime podcast.
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