SPRING HILL — A 38-year-old Tampa man was arrested Wednesday on a charge of driving under the influence involving drugs or alcohol after deputies said he mistook a Bank of America drive-through for a Taco Bell.
The branch manager of the Mariner Boulevard bank said they saw Douglas Jon Francisco passed out in his blue Hyundai sedan while it sat in the drive-up bank lane, according to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. This was about 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The manager said they started banging on the Hyundai’s window “for some time,” according a deputy’s report, before Francisco finally woke up.
Then Francisco tried to order a burrito, deputies said. When Claussen told he was not, in fact, at a Taco Bell, deputies said he drove to the front parking lot. When deputies arrived, they said they found Francisco in the driver’s seat, the car still running.
“He made several statements that were differing from reality,” a deputy wrote in the arrest report.
He also denied asking the manager for a burrito. Deputies said his responses to their questions were delayed and that after a field sobriety test he appeared to be impaired. Deputies said Francisco also had prescription medication with him under his name.
He was arrested on a charge of DUI involving alcohol or drugs. Deputies are awaiting the results of a drug test he underwent.
LAS CRUCES – A Las Cruces Police Department detective arrested in October on drunk driving charges was terminated by the department Thursday, according to LCPD spokesman Dan Trujillo.
This comes just one day after the charges against Det. Stephanie Carabajal, 26, were temporarily dismissed to avoid violating her rights to a speedy trial, according to state prosecutors.
Carabajal was arrested on Oct. 27 and charged with one count of aggravated driving while under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or drug and one count of blocking traffic after she allegedly fell asleep in her vehicle not once, but twice.
A witness told other officers that Carabajal’s personal vehicle was blocking traffic on Highway 70 East near the Mesa Grande Drive exit.
Las Cruces Police Officer Stephanie Carabajal (Photo: Doña Ana County Detention Center)
State prosecutors with the Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office temporarily dismissed those charges without prejudice Wednesday in Doña Ana County Magistrate Court. According to court records, the reason for the dismissal is “to prevent this case from being dismissed under the 182 day rule.”
The 182-day rule is a shorthand term that generally refers to a criminal defendant‘s right to a speedy trial under the 6th Amendment — within six months of his or her arraignment. Under the New Mexico state law, a defendant‘s trial must begin within 182 days of arraignment or waiver of arraignment. A court may extend the 182 days if it believes that there are circumstances beyond its control that prevent the trial from beginning within the allowed period. The extension may not exceed 60 days.ADVERTISING
According to court records requesting the dismissal, called a Nolle Prosequi, “the State will collect all the evidence needed for trial and then refile this case.”
“Filing a Nolle Prosequi without Prejudice allows the District Attorney prosecutors to refile this case,” District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said in a written statement to the Sun-News. “That procedure allows our office more time to collect all evidence necessary for prosecution. Due diligence is the standard by which our office will present all cases. Currently, under the Rule 6-506 (182 day rule), judges can dismiss a case with prejudice if all evidence is not disclosed to the defense preventing further proceedings against the defendant.”
Judge Norman Osborne granted the dismissal, court records indicate.
Carabajal graduated from the LCPD’s law enforcement training academy in January 2013, according to LCPD spokesman Dan Trujillo. Carabajal had been on paid administrative leave since her arrest.
An Elk Grove Village man was sentenced Monday to 14 years in prison for his sixth driving under the influence of alcohol conviction.
Nazim J. Useni, 58, must serve at least half the sentence, but will receive credit for time spent in the DuPage County jail after his arrest earlier this year.
A jury convicted him of aggravated driving under the influence after a two-day trial in September. He was accused of driving drunk at 1:47 a.m. Jan. 28 on southbound Rohlwing Road near Bryn Mawr Avenue in Itasca.
Assistant DuPage County State’s Attorney Claudia Fantauzzo told Judge John Kinsella that Useni is “basically a professional drunk, and because he was not all over the road, he thinks it is not a problem.”
She said he repeatedly has refused to take Breathalyzer tests, or taken the tests, but then claimed the machines were malfunctioning. In the most recent case, Fantauzzo said, a blood test several hours after his arrest showed Useni had a blood alcohol content of .19, more than twice the legal threshold for driving.
Police officers from Genoa, St. Charles and Carol Stream testified Monday about some of Useni’s previous DUI cases, including several where he fled from officers trying to pull him over. In 2010, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for one of the Carol Stream cases.
Fantauzzo asked that he be sentenced to 21 years in prison.
“It is a miracle that he has not killed someone yet,” she said. “It is so obvious the defendant has not learned from any of his mistakes.”
Useni told Kinsella he was driving Jan. 28 only because his mother called for help because the heat had gone out at her apartment. He did not want to ask his wife to drive there because she was sick, he said.
“I never hurt nobody. I never pulled a gun on nobody,” he said.
Kinsella said there were “a number of ways” Useni could have helped his mother that night, such as calling police to check on her well-being. He called Useni’s actions a “classic example” of the poor judgment a drunken driver engages in.
“Time and time again, Mr. Useni thumbed his nose at the law and continued to drink and drive,” DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement after Monday’s sentencing. “Not only did he get behind the wheel after his first DUI, but he did so as well after his fifth DUI. Every year thousands of lives are needlessly lost to DUI related crashes. Thankfully, no one was injured as a result of Mr. Useni’s irresponsible, reckless behavior.” https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20191202/elk-grove-village-man-gets-14-year-sentence-for-6th-dui
Clark County prosecutors have filed murder charges against at least seven motorists accused of causing deadly crashes since 2017, an effort to send a message to anyone who might get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or other mind-altering substances.
The new trend of charging motorists with murder in Southern Nevada, revealed by a Review-Journal analysis of court records, has occurred mostly in drunken driving crashes, although in two cases the drivers were otherwise charged with reckless driving. The practice is controversial because defense attorneys say the law doesn’t allow for it.
Attorneys with the Clark County public defender’s office, P. David Westbrook and Deborah L. Westbrook, attempted to stop the practice through an emergency motion filed with the Nevada Supreme Court that sought the dismissal of a murder charge in one of the cases.
The Supreme Court denied the request in an order Wednesday but indicated the issue remains unsettled because the motion “raises significant questions of statutory interpretation.”
David Westbrook said in an interview before the ruling that he expects the court will put an end to the practice.
“The district attorney’s office is ignoring Nevada case law,” he said. “What it boils down to is (prosecutors) are acting as the Legislature. Our Legislature has already spoken as to what the penalty is, and what crime occurs when someone is under the influence (while driving) and they kill someone.”
Clark County District Attorney Steven Wolfson contends that charging a motorist who engages in reckless behavior behind the wheel and kills someone with second-degree murder is not barred by law. He also said the problem of drunken drivers causing fatal crashes in Southern Nevada is significant and his office is acting to protect the public.
“I disagree that it is prevented by law,” Wolfson said. “It is unclear, which means we are not precluded or prevented. Now if the Supreme Court at some point tells me I can’t do it, I’ll stop doing it. But they haven’t told me I can’t, so I’m going to proceed along this fashion.”
The Review-Journal analysis of court records shows five defendants originally accused of driving under the influence in deadly crashes, while two others were accused of reckless driving, but not driving under the influence. The seven defendants are:
— Ronald Leavell, 50, is accused of causing a May 2017 crash that killed Gerardo Villicana Jr., 26. Authorities said Leavell was high on marijuana and speeding, traveling at speeds between 70 and 142 mph through a residential neighborhood. Leavell is scheduled to go to trial on Dec. 2 in District Court. Leavell is named in the emergency motion that was before the state Supreme Court.
— Kevin Raspperry, 35, is accused of driving on a revoked license at a high rate of speed, with drugs and alcohol in his system, before running a red light and killing Marcial Escobia, 65, on Oct. 27. Wolfson said Raspperry had two prior driving under the influence convictions and was driving 85 mph at the time of the crash near Tropicana Avenue and Rainbow Boulevard.
— Aaron Kruse, 24, is accused of causing a Nov. 9 crash that left two people dead. Wolfson said Kruse was driving at approximately 115 mph at the time of the accident on Boulder Highway. Killed were Norma Rosario Ortiz, of Las Vegas, and Alfonso Bueno Toxqui, 49, whose 2006 Toyota Corolla was rear-ended and burst into flames.
— Aylin Alderette, 26, was charged after a crash that killed Levi Echenique, 8, in September 2018. Authorities said Alderette had marijuana in her system and was driving recklessly at more than 100 mph at the time of the accident near Harmon and Eastern avenues. Alderette pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and driving under the influence. She was sentenced to at least 26 years in prison.
— Jorge Cardenas, 59, is charged with driving a vehicle that killed a bicyclist on Flamingo Road east of the strip. Cardenas was previously convicted in 2012 of driving under the influence and reckless driving resulting in substantial bodily harm. Authorities said he was driving at 80 mph on Flamingo Road east of the Strip when he struck and killed 55-year-old Eusebio Mendez-Mateo in January.
— Joshua Buckingham is accused of driving over 100 mph in March before crashing his vehicle into another in Boulder City. The crash killed 58-year-old Randy Reiner of Las Vegas. Buckingham, 27 at the time of the crash, is charged with reckless driving rather than DUI and second-degree murder with use of a deadly weapon.
— Jonathan Mora, 24, is charged in a crash that killed his nephew, 10-year-old Zion Jimenez, in September 2018. A court document suggests Mora was driving at 117 mph at East Vegas Valley Drive and South Mountain Vista Street at the time of the crash.
Absent from the list is prominent Las Vegas real estate broker Scott Gragson, 53, grandson of a former mayor of Las Vegas. Gragson is charged with DUI resulting in death, DUI resulting in substantial bodily harm and four counts of reckless driving. Authorities allege Gragson was driving a vehicle involved in a high-speed rollover crash in May at The Ridges, an upscale Summerlin community, which killed 36-year-old Melissa Newton and injured three others.
The Westbrooks argued in their emergency motion with the Supreme Court that both Nevada case law and legislative history make it clear you cannot charge a motorist with murder absent a specific, deliberate intent to kill. Deborah Westbrook said that in one case from 1984, it was determined that Nevada’s DUI statute supplies the exclusive punishment for deaths resulting from impaired driving.
“That very next year, the next legislative session, the Legislature presented a proposed bill — Assembly Bill 195 — (authorizing a murder charge against a DUI suspect), which did not pass,” she said, adding that instead lawmakers approved a bill increasing the maximum penalty for DUI causing death to 20 years.
The motion filed by the Westbrooks also pointed to the Gragson case as evidence that the murder charges are not being applied equitably.
“The facts of Mr. Gragson’s alleged crime seem remarkably similar to all five of the (DUI) cases in which the state has elected to charge second-degree murder,” it said.
“At best the decision to charge Mr. Leavell and others with second-degree murder was merely arbitrary,” the attorneys wrote. “At worst it provides proof of an equal protection violation — a rich white man being treated differently than poor minorities. Either way it is an example of the slippery slope that will be created if the state is allowed to create its own legal standards.”
Wolfson did not address specifics of the Gragson case but said that in every case a team of prosecutors meticulously analyzes the known facts before deciding on charges.
In the cases resulting in a murder charge, Wolfson said, “There was an increased level of behavior on the part of these offenders, which separates these offenders from the typical DUI death case.”
Wolfson said that there is a traffic accident involving a fatality about every three days in the Las Vegas Valley and that residents are well aware of the carnage caused by drunken driving. He said driving under the influence causing death is a crime punishable by two to 20 years in prison for each count. Second-degree murder, meanwhile, is punishable by a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. He said a message needs to be sent to the public that if you drink and drive in the valley and kill someone, you will face severe consequences.
“The standard for murder is the willful, wanton disregard for human life,” Wolfson said. “It is a high degree of recklessness.”
Wolfson said he has had at least 30 people thank him for pursuing murder charges in cases involving reckless drivers under the influence.
“My job is to punish, and deter, and to seek retribution and rehabilitate,” Wolfson said. “Deterrence is what we are trying to accomplish.”
P. David Westbrook said the Supreme Court ruling this week in the Leavell case is not the end of the issue. The court did not address the merits of the Leavell motion but said the court felt there was not enough time to consider the issue before Leavell’s trial.
“The court recognizes that this is an important issue, and I completely agree that they should not rush their finding. However, this puts my client in a terrible position,” Westbrook said.
Colorado and New Mexico rank high for drunken driving incidents, according BackgroundChecks.org, a nonprofit that compiles such data.Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file Toggle font size
FARMINGTON – As the holidays approach – a time of historically higher rates of driving under the influence – a new report places Colorado and New Mexico among the worst 15 states for drunken driving.
While fatalities related to drunken driving have decreased by nearly 50% since the early 1980s, 29% of motor vehicle deaths are still a result of alcohol impairment, according to BackgroundChecks.org, an outlet that compiles public records. Based on the organization’s findings, Colorado and New Mexico rank in the top 15 of the states with the worst DUI rates. The study defined alcohol impairment when a driver involved in the crash had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.
The rankings were organized by calculating a DUI severity score, through DUI arrests per 100,000 population and DUI-related fatalities per 100,000 population, according to study organizers. The organization relied on the 2018 FBI arrest statistics for DUI arrests and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for DUI fatalities.
New Mexico ranked as the sixth-worst state for drunken driving incidents, with 108 fatalities in 2018. The state saw an overall decrease in fatalities by 4% from the previous year. Colorado, while ranked 13th in the country for drunken driving incidents and 188 fatalities, saw an increase of 6.8% from its 2017 fatalities.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, the holidays are a particularly high time for drunken driving incidents as people travel farther and the number of parties increases. DUI arrests are highest between Thanksgiving and the end of New Year’s weekend.
The study’s findings come as both communities increase efforts to fight drunken driving.
In early November, La Plata County’s victim-impact panel put out a request for volunteers to share stories about how their life was affected by drunken driving. La Plata County also has the additional challenge of addressing people who drive under the influence of marijuana. As was previously reported by The Durango Herald,between Jan. 1, 2018, and June 20, 2019, there were 17 incidents of driving under the influence of drugs, nine of which involved marijuana, according to data provided by the Durango Police Department.
Last week, the New Mexico State Police announced officers would be cracking down on drunken drivers throughout December. Officials announced increased sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols. For the first 10 months of this year, state police reported 350 traffic fatalities, 92 of which involved alcohol. Although the overall number of deaths is higher than those reported for the past two years, the alcohol-related driving deaths are lower at this point in the year.
A driver who killed a mother while she slept after drunkenly crashing into tents at a Snowdonia campsite has been jailed.
Jake Waterhouse, 27, from Partington, Manchester, had been drinking whiskey with a friend at Rhyd y Galen campsite near Bethel, in North Wales, on the evening of 18 August, a court heard.
The father-of-two, who only had a provisional licence, drove friend Philip Eves’ car around the site in the early hours of the following day, first colliding with the tent of Neil Cook and partner Megan Lazenby, who suffered minor injuries.
The car then ploughed into the tent where Anna Roselyn Evans, 46, and her husband Huw were sleeping.
Sion ap Mihangel, prosecuting, told Mold Crown Court Mr Evans had been woken by an “almighty bang”, was cut free from the tent but could not find his wife.
He said: “Later he saw her legs sticking out from underneath the car, which was nearby. He felt helpless.”
The court heard how it took five people to lift the car off Ms Evans, who was unresponsive.
Waterhouse initially fled the scene but after he rang his mother and she told him to do “the right thing” he returned, the court was told.
He tested positive for alcohol but later gave insufficient breath tests and refused to give more specimens at the police station.
Ms Evans, who worked for the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, was taken to Ysbyty Gwynedd but later transferred to a major trauma unit in Stoke, where she died on 27 August.
In a statement, her husband said her death had had an emotional impact on all of the family, including her children Lowri, 25, and Richard, 24.
He said: “Anna was the love of my life and it will be so difficult to move on, especially with the manner in which she was taken away from us.”
The court heard Waterhouse had a number of previous convictions, including for violence, criminal damage, driving without insurance and driving not in accordance with a licence.
Sentencing, Judge Rowlands said it was an act “of the most appalling irresponsibility”.
He said: “I could so easily have been sentencing you for causing the death of not just one person but, in reality, four that night.”
Mentioning Ms Evans’ wished that her organs be donated, he added: “If ever there was a woman, mother, who contributed to her family and her community in life, but also in death, it seems a huge tragedy.”
Waterhouse, who was in tears at times in the dock, was jailed for eight years and four months after pleading guilty to causing death by dangerous driving on Tuesday.
He was also disqualified from driving for 12 years and two months.
MIDDLETOWN — A suspended State Police trooper, who was arrested after a DUI accident that injured two people, will appear in court on Monday.
Sgt. John McDonald, of the Western District Major Crimes Unit out of Southbury, was charged with driving under the influence and second-degree assault with a motor vehicle after the Sept, 25 accident,.He was also charged with reckless driving and failure to obey a stop sign.
McDonald has been suspended from duty – with pay – since Nov. 14, pending an investigation by officials into the crash.
According to his arrest warrant, McDonald bout eight drinks at a colleague’s retirement party at an Oxford brewery and appeared “hammered” later that night after crashing into a woman and her daughter.
Witnesses of the crash described McDonald as “hammered” and swaying back and forth in the middle of the roadway when the first officers arrived at the scene, according to the warrant.
Video from the Black Hog Brewery in Oxford where the retirement party was held showed McDonald drinking at least eight alcoholic beverages within about three hours, the warrant said.
After leaving the party, McDonald ran a stop sign at the intersection of Airport Road and Route 188 in Southbury, police said.
He struck the side of another car around 7:30 p.m. that night, according to the accident report. The occupants of the other vehicle, Lisa Conroy, and her 19-year-old daughter Madison Conroy, were taken to St. Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.
McDonald was not given a Breathalyzer at the scene, because he claimed to be injured and was transported to a Waterbury hospital, police said.
He left the hospital before staff could take blood tests, which might have revealed his blood alcohol content, reports said.
A lawsuit has since been filed on behalf of the two women that alleges McDonald had been drinking at the Black Hog Brewery shortly before the collision.
There were multiple OVI arrests during Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving OVI checkpoint in Fairfield. FILE PHOTO
BUTLER COUNTY — A Fairfield OVI checkpoint held Wednesday night netted three arrests, and extra patrols around the checkpoint led to at least eight more.
The Butler County OVI Task Force conducted the checkpoint between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday on Dixie Highway near Symmes Road in Fairfield.
Officers from the city of Fairfield and Fairfield Twp., along with the Ohio State Highway Patrol checked 230 vehicles, and seven were diverted for further investigation. Of those seven vehicles checked, three arrests were made for OVI, one arrest was made for driving under suspension and one arrest was made for having an open container.Content Continues Below
While most OWI pullovers are taken incredibly seriously and represent a danger, a pullover last Friday in downtown Chippewa Falls had officers puzzled and trying not to laugh.
A report of a vehicle swerving in downtown Chippewa Falls last Friday seemed like an average OWI report, but when the license plates of the vehicle were run through the police officer’s computer system, they came back as not registered and for good reason.
Suspect Nicholas Layton had hand-painted license plates on the back of a box originally containing beer in place of required state-issued license plates.
Adorned with the popular beer brand Hamm’s logo, the license plates were not identified as fake until the officer on duty was speaking to Layton, Chippewa Falls Police Chief Matthew Kelm said. Kelm said he has never seen anything like this before in his many years of law enforcement.