The Fulbright Association's state chapter is protesting a judge's decision to release a man from the Dakota County jail without bail following a car crash that killed a past chapter president.
Dakota County District Judge Martha Simonett granted a motion last month to allow Neftali Paolo Ramirez, 25, of Bloomington, to be released from jail without bail, as long as he entered chemical dependency treatment and complied with other conditions.
Ramirez is charged with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the death of Erin Claudia Randall, a 2007 Fulbright Scholar. Investigators say Ramirez had a 0.25 blood alcohol content when he crashed into Randall's car as she waited at a stoplight at Hwy. 13 in Burnsville around 2 a.m. on March 8.
After Ramirez's arrest, Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Swank asked that bail be set at $150,000 without conditions or $100,000 with conditions. But Ramirez's attorney, David Risk, successfully moved for Ramirez to be released without bail if he entered a chemical dependency program and submitted to random testing.
Ramirez appeared Tuesday in Dakota County District Court for a hearing on the conditions of his bail — specifically, whether the court would accept urine tests from the facility where Ramirez is in treatment. Swank noted the presence of two of Randall's family members and an attorney for the Fulbright chapter, but Simonett said she could not consider written comments or victim impact statements until the case reached its sentencing phase.
Randall, a Le Sueur native, researched sex trafficking in Bangladesh as a Fulbright Scholar. She worked for St. Paul's Wilder Foundation and other nonprofit organizations, and was elected president of the Fulbright Association's Minnesota chapter in 2012.
In a statement released Friday, the Fulbright chapter called on Simonett to reverse her bail decision and jail Ramirez. The chapter also asked Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom not to offer a plea bargain with lesser charges.
A spokeswoman for Backstrom's office said it is unusual for a person in this type of case to be released without bail. She also said Backstrom does not comment on cases outside of the initial charging phase and sentencing.