Woman sentenced to 10 years for drunken driving death

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 17, 2022




PLEASANT RIDGE — A Huntington Woods woman who pleaded guilty to driving drunk and causing the death of a Royal Oak man in a crash in 2020 has been sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.

Wendy Bass, 56, pleaded guilty Sept. 12 in the Oakland County Circuit Court on one count of operating while intoxicated causing death and one count of reckless driving causing death. She was sentenced Oct. 27 to a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 15 years.

For her guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of second-degree murder.

Assistant Oakland County Prosecutor Mark Keast said the plea deal came after the prosecution spoke with the family of Benjamin Jones, the 30-year-old Royal Oak man who was killed Aug. 19, 2020, when Bass, after having too much to drink, crashed into the rear of Jones’ vehicle at a stop light on the eastbound Interstate 696 service drive in Pleasant Ridge.

“We decided it was in everybody’s best interest to not have the family go through a trial,” Keast said.

The 10-year minimum, Keast said, is a sentence “way above” sentencing guidelines.

“We felt that we could maximize the sentence and minimize the emotional impact on the family,” he said. “So we all agreed to move forward like that.”

Bass’ attorney, Jerome Sabbota, called the case a tragic one in which no one wins.

“Everybody loses,” he said. “(Jones) lost his life. (Bass) lost her freedom. However, she will pay for what she has done. … She accepted the responsibility, and hopefully everybody will move on and learn from the experience.”

“It’s a very sad case,” he continued. “She’s a nice woman. She has had tremendous trauma in her life. Unfortunately, she drove while she had too much to drink, and as a result of that, somebody died, and it’s tragic. That doesn’t make her a bad person. That means she made a mistake.”

Four vehicles were involved in the crash. When Bass’ vehicle hit the Jeep occupied by Jones, it pushed the Jeep into two other vehicles. Jones was the only fatality.

Jones was the head varsity football coach at Cranbrook Kingswood, a private school located in Bloomfield Hills.

Keast said that Jones’ family is carrying on his name through the Get To Foundation, which provides resources to communities, teams and individuals, according to its website, gettofoundation.org. The foundation’s name was coined after a statement from Jones, wherein nobody has to do anything — they “get to.”

“He really instilled an attitude among his athletes at Cranbrook, and his family and friends have really taken up that and started this foundation that’s already become immensely popular,” Keast said. “They have speakers brought in to help talk to kids, a lot of mentoring programs, things like that. … It was definitely an honor to be selected to be on the case to help his family achieve some, even the smallest sort of justice, but some aspect of justice in this terrible situation.”