Brother of Nuggets star gets six years in prison for fatal DUI

Coban Porter, the brother of Denver Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr. was sentenced to six years in prison for DUI vehicular homicide and vehicular assault Friday, after earlier pleading guilty to crashing into and killing Kathy Rothman in 2023.

“You have clearly been called upon, for lack of a better phrase, to make good on this tragedy,” said Denver District Court Judge Ericka Englert, speaking to Coban Porter. “Do what you can to use this opportunity to educate others” about the dangers of driving drunk. 

“By all accounts you seem to be a man of character, kindness and integrity” which Englert said added to the tragedy of the case.

Porter, as part of a plea agreement earlier this year, admitted that he was driving drunk around 2 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2023 when he ran a red light and crashed into the driver side of the Tesla driven by Rothman, at the intersection of East Buchtel Boulevard and South University Boulevard.

Under terms of the agreement, he could have been sentenced to up to eight years in prison, but the judge sentenced him to six on one count and two on the other, allowing the sentences to run at the same time.

Rothman, 43, the mother of a young child, was driving for Uber on the night of the crash.

“This pain and trauma has become my worst reality,” said Connie Johnson, Rothman’s mother. “My life ended along with my sweet innocent daughter.”

Coban Porter played for the University of Denver basketball team, starting eight games as a freshman in the 2021-2022 season.

“Mr. Porter at one time had a very bright future ahead of him as a professional basketball player,” said Phillip Henry Beach, Rothman’s father. “In just a few seconds that career was changed, was gone, because Mr. Porter got in his car and drove irresponsible. Mr. Porter was drunk.”

Coban Porter acknowledged to the judge it wasn’t an accident, and he admitted that it wasn’t the first time he drove drunk.

 “All I can really say is ‘I’m sorry,’” Porter said. “I hope that somehow, someway I’ll be able to make a difference.”

He hoped that the sentencing brought the family a little bit of peace.

Family and friends testified on Coban Porter’s behalf, describing him as genuinely remorseful, kind and caring, and a talented basketball player.

Michael Porter Jr., Jontay Porter, Coban Porter
Ted S. Warren/AP Photo
In this March 4, 2017, file photo, Coban Porter, left, poses with his brother, Michael Porter Jr., center, and Jontay Porter, right,  after a championship high school game in Tacoma, Washington. In 2024, Coban was sentenced to six years in prison for a fatal DUI and Jontay was given a lifetime ban from the NBA for violating the league's betting rules.

Michael Porter Jr., told the court he hadn’t initially been prepared to speak at the sentencing. He said that he was the first in the family to learn of the crash. He believed at first that his younger brother had been killed. “Not Coban, not Coban,” he said he thought at the time.

Michael said that Coban was the motivating force in his basketball career, often urging him to workout when he didn’t want to. “It’s not often that a big brother looks up to his little brother,” said Michael.

Coban was recovering from a knee injury at the time of the accident, and wasn’t traveling with the University of Denver team, which one witness speaking on his behalf, said led him to depression and drinking.

According to police investigators, when they contacted Coban Porter after the crash he, “displayed bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred and mumbling speech, and the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath. He also had a ‘BudLight’ paper wristband on his left wrist.”

Rothman’s passenger that night, Jason Branch, survived, but was seriously injured. Blanch and the Rothman family filed a lawsuit in Jan. against Coban and the bar where he was drinking the night of the crash, Crimson and Gold Tavern. 

The lawsuit alleges that the bar continued to serve Coban alcohol, despite him being visibly intoxicated. “The Crimson and Gold Tavern caters to University of Denver students and sports fans, and offers multiple alcoholic drink specials, including discounted beer and hard alcohol drinks and cocktails,” reads the lawsuit.

A third Porter brother, former Toronto Raptors player Jontay Porter, was suspended for life from the NBA earlier this week for placing wagers on basketball, and disclosing confidential information to other bettors.