After four altercations with law enforcement officers and three instances of drunken driving within a nine-month span, Park County prosecutors argued that it was time to send John Bradish to …
After four altercations with law enforcement officers and three instances of drunken driving within a nine-month span, Park County prosecutors argued that it was time to send John Bradish to prison.
At a November sentencing hearing in Park County District Court, Bradish’s defense attorney acknowledged it was a tough case.
“We can give up on Mr. Bradish and tell him he had his chances and he failed miserably, and we can send him to the state pen,” attorney Tim Blatt said. However, Blatt argued that a prison sentence — where Bradish might not receive treatment for his PTSD and alcoholism — would effectively amount to “crossing our fingers” and hoping that Bradish would not continue to pose a danger to the community once released.
“On the other option, your honor, we can show some compassion to a veteran that was severely injured in the service of his country,” Blatt said, contending it would be better for Bradish to be placed under supervision and continue receiving treatment at the Sheridan VA.
Judge Bill Simpson ultimately took the latter option, ordering Bradish to serve six months of supervised probation, with four to six years of prison time hanging in suspension. The terms include avoiding alcohol and obeying the law, among other conditions.
Amid a budget crunch, Simpson said there are issues surrounding the State of Wyoming’s ability “to even pay for incarceration,” while the prison system had stopped its drug, alcohol or treatment programs and generally confined inmates to their cells for 23 hours a day to try limiting the spread of COVID-19.
“Does that protect society, does that serve and remedy and acknowledge what we are about? I don’t know,” Simpson said.
But the judge said Bradish would potentially complete a prison sentence with no training or help and “all we’ve really done is turned him loose again with an alcohol problem and no way to deal with it.”
Simpson said he instead preferred to have the 38-year-old continue his treatment in Sheridan, noting he made progress at the VA facility while free on bond in the case.
In remarks to the judge, Bradish said he’d allowed a traumatic brain injury and PTSD he suffered during a deployment to Iraq — along with alcohol abuse — to go untreated. That, he said, caused “a tremendous amount of havoc, grief and sadness to me and those around me.”
The string of crimes began in June 2019, when Powell police found Bradish “very intoxicated” outside the K-Bar Saloon and attempted to give him a ride home. However, he eventually became combative and bit two officers on their hands. Then in August 2019, while out on bail, he was re-arrested by the Park County Sheriff’s Office when he drove drunk to a residence on McCullough Road in rural Cody and refused to leave. Bradish then was uncooperative with responding sheriff’s deputies, reportedly trying to pinch one of them.
Bradish was later allowed to attend an inpatient treatment program in Utah, but just two weeks after he completed that program, he was arrested again. In that instance, court records say he drunkenly crashed into a parked Jeep on Lane 20 — and then had to be Tasered and physically restrained by responding deputies.
Bradish remained in jail from November 2019 through mid-March 2020, when his defense attorney and prosecutors finalized a plea deal to resolve all of the pending cases.
Under the terms of the deal, Bradish agreed to plead guilty to six misdemeanor offenses: three counts of interference with a peace officer, two second offense DUIs and property destruction, in exchange for other counts being dropped.
The end result called for Bradish to serve three years of supervised probation and complete multiple treatment programs, while receiving credit for the 128 days he’d served in jail. However, just eight days after Bradish was released from jail, he ran afoul of the law again.
Bradish was arrested outside his ex-girlfriend’s Cody home on March 26, after he reportedly trespassed on her property and beat on her door; Bradish then fought with a family member, sheriff’s deputies and a trooper from the Wyoming Highway Patrol before being taken into custody. Additionally, authorities say Bradish had driven to the residence in a side-by-side vehicle while intoxicated; a breath test at the scene pegged his blood alcohol content at more than twice the legal limit, court records said.
It was that case that brought him to the Park County District Courtroom in November, where he admitted to a felony count of driving while under the influence of alcohol for a fourth time in 10 years and a misdemeanor count of interference with a peace officer. (As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped other misdemeanor counts of breach of peace, battery and criminal trespassing.)
In his arguments to Judge Simpson, Deputy Park County Attorney Larry Eichele noted that Bradish had multiple offenses since 2015.
“Everyone appreciates what you’ve done and what you’re attempting to do — make no mistake,” Eichele told Bradish, citing his military service and the treatment he was seeking. “But I just have such a concern about the frequency and the high level of intoxication that you have incurred over the last five years.”
The prosecutor asked what assurances he could offer that he wouldn’t drink and drive and endanger the public again.
Bradish stressed that he cannot drink alcohol at all — and said the treatment he’s been receiving at the Sheridan VA had been different. At the facility, Bradish said he’d been able to receive treatment for not just his alcoholism, but also his traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Bradish joined the U.S. Army in March 2003 and was ultimately deployed to Iraq, serving as a cavalry scout. On the night of Dec. 28, 2004, Iraqi insurgents launched a 110 millimeter surface to air rocket into a camp occupied by Bradish and his fellow soldiers, he said.
Bradish took shrapnel to his arm and suffered permanent damage, along with a traumatic brain injury. He was among 13 troops who were injured — receiving a Purple Heart and other awards for his service — while one of his fellow soldiers was killed in the attack.
After returning to the U.S., Bradish initially had no run-ins with law enforcement, but things eventually “started seriously downhill,” he said. Bradish said serious medical problems with his legs led to emergency surgery and triggered the severe PTSD from his time in the military. He’s since been determined to be 100% disabled from his injuries.
“I believe the PTSD came first and the alcoholism came second,” Bradish said. He also spoke about childhood trauma and other issues in his life, adding that, “I am not trying to make any excuses for the situation I have found myself in.”
After reflecting on his past actions while in jail and in treatment, “it saddens me knowing that the people in my life that I love and cherish the most are the same people that I have also hurt the most,” Bradish said.
With Bradish in a VA program in Sheridan, Blatt said it offered a unique opportunity to give his client another chance on probation, given the additional supervision from the VA. But prosecutor Eichele called for punishment, citing the threat to public safety and multiple offenses.
“The state believes Mr. Bradish has had his chances. He’s chosen to ignore them for whatever reason,” Eichele said in arguing for an unspecified amount of prison time, “and although his service to this country is admirable, enviable and we all appreciate that greatly, we cannot allow him to have access to the public streets as he has recently and he needs to pay the penalty for that.”
For his part, Judge Simpson said he believed that Bradish, who served roughly five months in jail following March’s drunk driving incident, had accounted for his crimes.
“I’m going to ask you to take another oath … that you will commit, promise and swear to this court, that you will do everything within your power to maintain your sobriety, live a law-abiding life, be of service to other men and women, not be a burden to society ... keep in contact with your family, those people who love you and care about you,” Simpson said. “And remember that if you do that, Mr. Bradish, you will be a success. You’ve already committed and you’ve shown that you can walk through the fire with your military service and now you have a very difficult task ahead of you.”
Bradish promised to make that commitment.
“I’m trusting you,” Simpson said. “But if you violate that trust, you know you’ll leave me with no choice and the repercussions will be swift, immediate and effective.”