Iowa man accused of drunken driving with kids in the car had previous child endangerment charge

Of the 54 drivers involved in fatal alcohol-related crashes in Iowa in 2016, 43 percent of them were repeat drunk driving offenders. Since 2005, more than 134,000 people have been charged with drunken driving.

Authorities believe a 24-year-old Des Moines man barred from driving was drunk while speeding with multiple children in his car.

Trevar N. Rippey has been charged with operating while intoxicated, first offense; driving while barred as a habitual offender; and four counts of child endangerment.

He was pulled over while driving on Interstate 235 in Des Moines at 10:42 p.m. Tuesday by an Iowa State Patrol trooper. The trooper caught Rippey going 68 mph in a 55 mph zone near Exit 8B for East Village, according to a criminal complaint.

Rippey, who reported living in the 2900 block of Rutland Avenue, had watery eyes and was slow to answer the trooper’s questions, court records show. The trooper also noticed an alcohol odor coming from the vehicle. 

Trevar N. Rippey shown in his Polk County Jail mugshot.

Trevar N. Rippey shown in his Polk County Jail mugshot. (Photo: Provided photo/Special to the Register)

During a field sobriety test, Rippey showed “6 out of 6 clues” for intoxication, according to court documents. He refused to give a breath sample during the field test at the scene of the arrest and again after being taken into custody.

A 25-year-old woman was in the passenger seat, the report states, and her 18-month-old daughter was in the car. Along with the baby, three of Rippey’s children — ranging in age from 17 months to 7 years old — were in the car, and two were not buckled. One child who supposed to be in a car seat was in a booster seat, court records show.ADVERTISING

A probation officer for Rippey, who has a slew of misdemeanor guilty pleas in Polk County on his record, wrote in a court document Wednesday that he should lose his probation. Rippey has managed to avoid prison despite child endangerment, domestic abuse and multiple driving while barred charges.

“This officer is recommending that as a result of the above allegations, the Court revoke the Defendant’s probation due to the (Defendant) continuing to put the public as well as children in danger,” probation officer Austin Sabin wrote.

Since 2012, Rippey has more than 25 entries in Iowa Court Online for state and city traffic offenses. He also has a history of driving while barred and child endangerment charges.

Des Moines police say Rippey was smoking marijuana April 2, 2018 in the 1500 block of Clark Street with two of his small children in the car.

Police found a baggy and half-smoked “marijuana cigarette” in the Pontiac G6 he was driving. He was given a suspended two-year prison sentence for each of his two counts of child endangerment and a suspended one-year prison sentence for possession of marijuana. 

About two years earlier, in 2016, he pleaded guilty to driving while barred and possession of marijuana and was given a three-year suspended prison sentence. Months after being caught driving while barred, he was accused of repeatedly kicking the car door of the mother of his children, court records show. He was given a suspended one-year jail sentence for fourth-degree criminal mischief. 

He was caught again in 2016, this time in October, driving while barred. He was given another two-year suspended prison sentence, court records show. That same year, he was found guilty of domestic abuse, first offense and was sentenced to 30 days in jail but was given credit for time served.

Jury to decide fate of man accused of assaulting Breckenridge police officer

Nathan Finnegan, 22, is accused of assaulting a Breckenridge Police Officer during the early morning hours of July 21, 2018.
Office of the District Attorney 5th District

Friday was the final day of evidence presentation at the Nathan Finnegan trial at the Summit County Justice Center in Breckenridge. The case has been handed over to the jury, which will decide the fate of the 22-year-old Minnesota native.

Finnegan, who is accused of assaulting Breckenridge police Officer Jennifer Kruse after driving while intoxicated and crashing his vehicle in July 2018, has been charged with first- and second-degree assault, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, driving under the influence, careless driving, two counts of violence and lesser charges of public property damage.

Chief Judge Mark Thompson presided over the courtroom. District Attorney Bruce Brown and deputy DA Stephanie Cava presented evidence for the state while Dillon-based attorneys Kevin Jensen and Everett Pritchard conducted Finnegan’s defense.

The day began with the defense introducing their final witness, nurse Jennifer Bustillos, who had tended to Finnegan the day he was booked into the Summit County Jail. The defense used Bustillos’ testimony to try to establish that Finnegan had a head injury that might have disoriented him, removing the possibility he had the state of mind and intent required for a first- or second-degree assault charge.

The defense established Bustillos as an expert in evaluating head injuries. Bustillos then testified that she evaluated Finnegan after he was initially treated at St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and booked at the jail. Bustillos recalled that Finnegan complained of headaches, spots in his eyes, as well as hearing and light sensitivity when she evaluated him.

Coupled with his medical charts from St. Anthony Summit Medical Center showing that Finnegan had been put into a medically-induced coma, Bustillos concluded that he had suffered a head injury. She said she gave Finnegan instructions to lie down with a shirt over his eyes along with earplugs to dampen the hearing and light-sensitivity issues, as well as providing typical counseling she would give to someone who had suffered a head injury.

The prosecution disputed the notion that Finnegan had suffered a head injury while attempting to throw Bustillos’ credibility into doubt. In her cross-examination, Cava got Bustillos to admit that she did not write down any of the head injury symptoms in her evaluation notes. Cava also got Bustillos to confirm that St. Anthony Summit did not diagnose Finnegan with a head injury when he was initially treated there, and that a CT scan came out negative for signs of a brain injury.

After Bustillos’ testimony ended, the state rested its case and the trial moved on to closing arguments. The main point of contention between the state and the defense was whether Finnegan intended to cause serious bodily injury to Kruse, which would determine guilt on the most serious charges.

Cava, on behalf of the state, insisted that Finnegan recognized Kruse as an officer and knew he was in trouble, giving him the requisite motivation and intent to want to do harm to her. Cava went on to say that Finnegan not only punched Kruse twice, but also strangled her, which she said was proved by signs of bruising on Kruse’s throat that showed up three days later. That was offered as proof of his intent to commit “serious bodily injury” required for either first- or second-degree assault charges.

Cava also accused Finnegan of leaving Kruse unconscious and bleeding on the road, showing the “extreme indifference” to her life required to convict for first-degree assault. Cava then summarized briefly the reason why the other charges — such as criminal mischief — applied before ending her appeal to the jury.

Jensen, who performed the closing for the defense, attempted a systematic dismantling of the state’s argument that Finnegan’s crime met the elements required for first- and second-degree assault on a peace officer.

Jensen said that the injuries Kruse sustained were neither life-threatening nor permanently disfiguring. Kruse was able to go back to full duties within two and a half weeks and does not appear to have any significant damage from her injuries. Jensen also argued to the jury that Finnegan could not intend to cause any serious bodily injury to her, as he was very intoxicated and incoherent and not in his right mind — and therefore intent was not possible.

Jensen also said that Brown, as an elected district attorney, was under a lot of pressure from the Breckenridge Police Department to “overcharge” Finnegan and get a conviction. That line of argument drew repeated objections from Brown, who felt it was not within the scope of the evidence and ultimately irrelevant.

Jensen also pointed out that the defense had asked for the lesser charges such as criminal mischief to be tacked on in order to give the jurors an opportunity to find guilt for the real crimes Finnegan committed.

In his rebuttal, Brown dismissed the voluntary request for lesser charges as a common defense tactic, and said that the jury should not be influenced by it. Brown also noted that their expert from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation found Finnegan’s DNA on Kruse’s holster, which he said was proof that Finnegan had reached for Kruse’s gun after assaulting her. That, Brown said, was more than enough evidence to find that Finnegan’s conduct created the “grave risk of death” required for a first-degree assault verdict.

After Brown’s rebuttal, all evidence had finally been submitted from both sides, and Judge Thompson turned the case over to the jury for a verdict. The most important question for the jury to decide is what was going through Finnegan’s head when he allegedly assaulted Kruse, and whether the state had presented enough evidence to show the requisite intent for serious bodily injury. As of press time, the jury was still deliberating.

Congress considers devices on cars to prevent drunken driving after death of Michigan family

WASHINGTON – The deaths of a Michigan family of five in January when a truck slammed into their car in Kentucky has Congress wondering whether interlock devices that keep drunken drivers off the road entirely should be mandatory for all vehicles.

On Thursday, members of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee specifically invoked the deaths of Issam Abbas, his wife, Rima, and their three children as they questioned whether technology that could keep vehicles from being operated by any drunken driver should be more widely required.

And while any move to mandate devices in all vehicles to keep them from starting without the driver first blowing into a tube or taking some other action to test his or her sobriety is unlikely in the near future, it was clear that some members of Congress and safety advocates believe that federal regulators should be moving in that direction.  

“What’s sad is that this story has been repeated over and over again and Congress needs to step up and do something about it,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. “The technology exists to save lives.”

The Abbas family, clockwise from left, Ali, Rima, Issam, Isabelle and Giselle, pose for a photo at a wedding in 2018.

The Abbas family, clockwise from left, Ali, Rima, Issam, Isabelle and Giselle, pose for a photo at a wedding in 2018. (Photo: Bill Mcdad, Bill Mcdad)

At present, interlock devices are generally only required by state courts after someone has been arrested for drunken driving. But with more than 10,000 drunken driving fatalities a year, some safety advocates and members of Congress are pushing legislation, such as Dingell’s Abbas Stop Drunk Driving Act, which could mandate interlock devices in an effort keep drunken drivers off the road.

The family was headed home from a vacation trip when a truck operated by 41-year-old Joey Bailey hit their vehicle head-on on Jan. 6 on I-75 in Kentucky. A coroner said Bailey had a blood-alcohol level of .306, well above the .08 legal limit to drive.

The only technology currently available involves an interlock device that connects to the car and requires the driver to blow into a tube before the vehicle will start. 

But for more than a decade, the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety — an organization funded by domestic and international automakers — has been working on technology that could result in devices that keep a car from starting based on more passive testing, such as automatically measuring the blood-alcohol of a driver as he or she breathes naturally behind the wheel, or a touch-based system that “measures blood alcohol levels by shining an infrared–light through the fingertip of the driver.

Robert Strassburger, the president and CEO of the coalition, said the technology is still being developed and is only being tested on less than a half-dozen vehicles in Virginia. But he hopes it will be available for a wider fleet of vehicles — such as government agency vehicles — for testing by next year and for commercial purchase by 2004.

Automakers aren’t, at this point, advocating making such technology — or the available interlock devices — mandatory, however, and are generally loathe to have federal regulators or Congress force requirements on them, especially if there are fears that the public isn’t ready to accept them or they could result in unacceptably high costs.

The auto industry has also been investing heavily into the promise of automated vehicles, which could potentially make the problem of drunken driving virtually disappear — though that technology is also unlikely to be widely available in the near future.

The Alliance of Auto Manufacturers, a trade group of domestic and international automakers, put out a statement saying that automakers continue to work to address impaired driving and support present-day ignition interlocks and law enforcement’s use of them, though it said those rules could always be reviewed.

“Industry, in cooperation with the federal government, is also examining emerging technologies to combat drunk driving,” the Alliance statement continued. “Such technology must not hassle the sober driver. It also must be small, quick, noninvasive, accurate, reliable, repeatable, foolproof, durable and easy to maintain.  And, of course, it must have the public’s support.” 

Safety advocates and others, meanwhile, argued that Strassburger and the industry are dragging their feet and that if they won’t make faster progress, Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should require — by a certain date — that the existing interlock devices be mandated on vehicles.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with the industry on this issue,” said Joan Claybrook, a board member of the safety group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and a former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administrator in the Carter administration. 

“Where is this system?” she continued. “It didn’t take this long to produce (the technology for) air bags and air bags are a lot more complicated than this. Why is this not in every car?”

Strassburger and David Kelly, the executive director of the Coalition of Interlock Ignition Manufacturers, said that it is vital to build consumer support for such systems or there could be backlash. Some members of the committee questioned whether drivers might also find ways to disable or otherwise get around the technology.

“(We have) always been built to try to increase consumer awareness at the same time as technology,” said Stassburger. He added that “not hassling drivers (who) are not the problem is a very important consideration.”

Dingell, however, said that the promises of technology that will end drunken driving still seem to keep getting pushed off. “We keep funding it, but it doesn’t get there.”

LSD-impaired man who killed another driver in crash gets 10-year prison sentence

Man sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing man in crash while he was on LSD
Gavin Veium was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for killing another driver in June in a crash on John Nolen Drive that happened while he was driving under the influence of a psychedelic drug.ED TRELEVEN, STATE JOURNAL

A Madison man who killed another driver while driving under the influence of LSD last year was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison after a serious tongue-lashing from a Dane County judge who said he saw no sign of remorse from the man.

Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan also sentenced Gavin Veium, 22, to five years of extended supervision for the June 23 crash on John Nolen Drive that killed Diano McCullough, 45, of Madison.

Veium’s sentencing hearing began with seven members of McCullough’s family, including his life partner and his mother, telling Hanrahan how McCullough’s high character and positive energy have been missed by his 8-year-old son and an extended family that includes nieces, nephews and cousins.

The hearing ended with Hanrahan telling Veium that his lack of character was a significant factor in his long prison sentence. Hanrahan said Veium’s character issues were most evident when he broke conditions of his bail on several occasions, including one time that led to the revocation of Veium’s bail.

On that occasion, Veium, who was under an order to consume no alcohol, flunked a remote alcohol check. Veium blamed it on eating a lot of tiramisu just before the test. He said at the time that he was unaware the dessert contains rum.

Hanrahan told Veium, who kept his head bowed through most of the hearing, that he was hoping to see him show remorse and take some steps toward making a positive change in his life after the crash.

“What I got was a guy who didn’t give a damn,” Hanrahan said. “I wanted to find out what I was dealing with and I got my answer.”

According to a criminal complaint, Veium’s Mercury Marquis was traveling around 60 mph when it crashed into the back of McCullough’s SUV, which was stopped at a red light on John Nolen Drive around 3:35 a.m. on June 23. The SUV caught fire after the impact lifted it off the ground and pushed it into a traffic standard near South Blair Street, a witness told police.

The SUV was ablaze when police arrived. McCullough was dead at the scene. An autopsy found that he died of inhalation of burning materials and burn injuries, along with blunt force trauma.

The complaint states Veium admitted later to a nurse at UW Hospital that he had taken the psychedelic drug LSD. Assistant District Attorney William Brown said Veium had also used marijuana.

Brown called the crash the worst impaired-driving homicide he has ever seen. He asked Hanrahan to sentence Veium to 10 years in prison and 10 years of extended supervision.

McCullough died when his SUV “blew up and burned with him inside,” Brown said. “The amount of suffering this man had to endure because of the selfish, negligent actions of another is simply astonishing.”

Veium’s lawyer, Laura Breun, asked Hanrahan to sentence Veium to three years in prison and three years of extended supervision. She said Veium, who had a difficult upbringing, is a first-time offender and a presentence investigation found no signs of anti-social or criminal behavior. She also told Hanrahan that it wasn’t long ago that a case like this would end with no prison time because the crime wasn’t premeditated and showed no malice.

Hanrahan agreed the crime wasn’t premeditated. He said Veium never would have gotten into the car if he thought it would lead to killing someone in a crash.

“You just weren’t thinking,” Hanrahan told Veium.

After the hearing, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said that isn’t uncommon among impaired drivers. That’s why more education is needed to teach young drivers to think before they drive, he said.

“What we are seeing is that people who do get into these accidents, this isn’t the first time they’ve driven under the influence,” he said. “What we see with alcohol use is their inhibitions are lowered and they start thinking about, ‘Well, am I going to get caught?’ They don’t think they are that bad until the tragedy occurs.”

Ozanne said Veium’s sentence is a sign of the times.

“I think there has been a consistent shift over time where people are starting to get tired of people losing their lives senselessly on our roads,” he said.

Just before he was sentenced, Veium told Hanrahan, “I know I have no right to ask for forgiveness. I’m truly sorry for this.”

Hanrahan praised McCullough’s family members, some of whom had forgiven Veium earlier in the hearing. The judge said McCullough’s spirit lives on through them.

Police employee ejected from vehicle after DUI suspect’s truck crashes into her

An Anaheim Police Department employee was critically injured when her vehicle was struck by a driver suspected of driving under the influence of drugs Saturday afternoon, March 9, authorities said. The suspect earlier Saturday was involved in an unrelated incident in which his vehicle struck another vehicle and he fled the scene, police said.

Jose Alfredo Alcantar Garcia, 34, of Placentia. (Courtesy of Anaheim Police Department)

The employee, a Traffic Control Assistant, was in a stopped, marked vehicle performing traffic control duties on La Palma Avenue across the street from Servite High School when she was hit from behind by a pickup truck, Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.

The forced of the crash caused the employee to be ejected from her vehicle. Co-workers and paramedics performed medical aid before she was taken to a local trauma center in critical condition, Wyatt said.

The marked vehicle was blocking traffic in the westbound right lane of La Palma Avenue when the Toyota Tundra rear ended the vehicle, Wyatt said.

The driver of the truck, 34-year-old Jose Alfredo Alcantar Garcia of Placentia was arrested and booked at the Anaheim Detention Facility on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs causing great bodily injury, possession of methamphetamine for sale, transportation of methamphetamine and driving on a suspended license, Wyatt said.

Investigators believe he was driving under the influence of methamphetamine and marijuana when the crash occurred, the police department said in a statement. His bail was statutorily set at $100,000.

Anaheim police said Garcia was also booked on suspicion of hit-and-run after investigators determined that about an hour prior to the crash involving the traffic control assistant, Garcia was involved in a crash on eastbound La Palma and fled the scene. There were no injuries in that crash.