PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Miriam Clinton is a 29-year-old single mom who went out for dinner and drinks with her friends on August 16. On the way home, she said she checked to see if she had any messages from her babysitter.
Now she’s in prison for drunk driving, third-degree assault and felony hit-and-run.
She’s in prison because that night, on her way home from dinner and drinks with friends, she hit Henry Schmidt, a 20-year-old Lewis & Clark student, as he walked his bike in a bike lane on SW Barbur Boulevard.
Clinton didn’t stop.
But a TriMet bus driver did. He saw Schmidt lying in the road, stopped and called 911. Two bus passengers then used Schmidt’s phone to call his family.
Henry Schmidt suffered a fractured spine and a lacerated spleen plus multiple broken bones.
“I reached in the back seat to grab my purse to make sure my babysitter hadn’t texted me,” Clinton told KOIN 6 News in an interview days before she was sentenced to prison for three years and four months. “As I reached back I could feel my car hitting the curb.”
“I, like, looked up and what felt to me like a sign or something hit my windshield, and all I could think was, ‘Oh my goodness.’ And I kept going. I should have stopped, but certainly did not think I had hit a human being.”
She was candid when asked why she didn’t stop.
“In my mind, being intoxicated, I thought to myself that what’s the difference if I deal with it now or if I deal with it tomorrow at home.”
Regardless of the drinking, Miriam Clinton should not have been driving that night. Her driver’s license was suspended.
“It was a lot of bad choices,” she said.
The next morning, a Saturday, Clinton said she had her car towed to an autobody shop where her ex-boyfriend’s friend worked. Then she left town on a camping trip with friends until the following Tuesday.
She came back from camping and went to work on Wednesday.
“I had no idea any of this happened.”
That night, she got a call at work from her ex-boyfriend who knew about her damaged car. He’d seen news reports of the hit-and-run.
“So I went on the Internet and realized there was a really good chance I was involved in the hit-and-run on the news. So I immediately called an attorney, who immediately called the autobody shop. And I turned myself in the next day. We called the car in. I turned myself in. I wasn’t hiding from anybody.”
She pleaded not guilty on August 23 — one week after the crash. She changed her plea to guilty on October 25.
Prosecutors told KOIN 6 News that evidence in the case, including circumstances of the crash and the caved-in windshield on Clinton’s car, supported she knew she hit a person.
Clinton wants people to know she is taking responsibility for her mistakes.
“I’m a good person that made a terrible mistake,” she said. “I’m sorry to the victim. I’m sorry to his family. I’m sorry to my son. None of them deserve any of this.”
After she gets out of prison, her driver’s license will be suspended for five years.
She wanted to speak, hoping her message would be heard.
“I hope people will think twice before they tell themselves that they’re OK to drive home,” she said.
“I’m losing my son and I hurt somebody else and this has affected so many people’s lives that didn’t do anything to deserve it.
“It’s all my fault.”