Pioneer Press – 2011-04-26
Diane Bakdash is a loving mother struggling with the heartbreak of an adult son plagued by alcohol problems, but she is not a criminal, her defense attorney told a judge today.
The Roseville woman could not have helped her son cover up a crime she knew nothing about, Ryan Garry argued during her first court appearance.
Since it was a hearing to set bail, there was no need for Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Mabley to rule on Garry’s argument. But the judge did grant the defense request to set the woman’s bail at a fraction of the $1 million that a prosecutor sought.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judith Cole said a hefty bail was needed because the woman might flee. Mabley was unconvinced. He told Bakdash, 66, a psychiatric clinical nurse, that if she abided by certain conditions, her bail would be $100,000, or she could pay $10,000 cash and get out of jail.
Bakdash was charged Tuesday with being an accomplice after the fact to her son’s alleged killing of a University of Minnesota student this month. Timothy Ayman Bakdash, 29, is accused of running down the man with a car moments after the two had argued April 15 in a Dinkytown night spot.
After two nights in jail, Diane Bakdash appeared bright, attentive and even smiled widely at times.
She answered the clerk’s questions about her name and address but apologized, “I have a cold right now so I can’t talk very loud.”
She misheard the clerk’s question about her date of birth and replied, “Honolulu, Hawaii.” A few moments later, her turn before the judge over, she sat down next to a younger female defendant and grinned and nodded as the two conversed.
The woman is accused of helping her son destroy or conceal evidence of a murder; namely, that she advised him to get rid of the car he allegedly used to mow down three people April 15. The car, a silver 2004 Mitsubishi Galant, was registered in her name, and she allegedly signed the title so her son could sell the vehicle to one of his friends for $1,500 hours after the incident.
Benjamin Van Handel, 23, an economics major from of Appleton, Wis., was due to graduate next month. He suffered mortal injuries when he was struck by the car and died five days later. Police claimed Bakdash revved his engine, jumped a curb, drove down a sidewalk and struck Van Handel and two women.
The women were also injured but police said they’d recover.
Police say Timothy Bakdash’s intent was murder. Minneapolis’ top homicide cop, Capt. Amelia Huffman, said investigators don’t know what fueled the man’s dispute with Van Handel, other than it involved “bruised feelings.”
The friend who bought the car told police that he overheard Bakdash speaking with his mother and that she told him “that he had to get rid of that car that night,” according to the criminal complaint. Garry told the judge that his client could not have been an accomplice after the fact to a crime she didn’t know had been committed.
“There is no evidence that she knew what had occurred,” the defense lawyer said. “The only evidence is that she helped her son dispose of a car that was involved in an accident.”
Garry also claimed that from a legal standpoint, the woman’s sale of the car April 15 could not be construed as concealing a murder if the victim died April 20.
“She feels absolutely horrible about what happened to the victims in this case,” Garry said after the hearing. “I don’t think there’s anything to establish the fact that she tried to cover up the crime of murder.”
Bakdash is a clinical nurse specialist and works at a private psychiatric practice in Chanhassen. The firm’s website says that she has a masters in psychiatric nursing from UCLA and attended the College of St. Catherine’s nurse practitioner program, and that she evaluates and treats adults with psychiatric disorders.
State records show she was originally licensed as a nurse in Minnesota in May 1974 and has two advanced-practice certifications, for gerontology and adult psychiatric and mental health.
Garry said that the woman had spent 25 years working with patients at the Veterans Administration, and that she had appeared as a court witness on behalf of Hennepin County, where she’s worked with the county’s Sexual Assault Resource Service.
During the brief hearing and in an interview afterwards, Garry said that his client and her family had spent years dealing with Timothy Bakdash’s chemical dependency, and that the son had repeatedly refused help and had wound up in trouble with the law.
Most recently, in March, he finished serving two years’ probation on a driving-while-impaired charge.
“He has suffered as a chemically dependent person since he was very young,” Garry said. “His family, from his father to his mother to his sisters, have repeatedly tried over the years to get him to sober up. At some point, you give up. What seems to me clear about this family is that they all love each other very much and this kid was not able to get sober. The mother has asked for help from the police many, many times, and nothing has worked.”
Roseville police records show that since March 2005, Diane Bakdash has called police 13 times. Garry said many of those calls were attempts to get help for her son.
Timothy Bakdash’s attorney, Joseph Tamburino, declined comment on Garry’s remarks. “He’s a good attorney and he’s making arguments on behalf of his client,” he said.
“As a mother, as a parent, when do you give up?” Garry asked. “I think no matter what my children do, I would always love them. She just wanted to help him and he ended up taking advantage of that situation.”
David Hanners can be reached at 612-338-6516, firstname.lastname@example.org.