Former official pleads guilty to OWIs

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CROWN POINT — A former Hobart Township Board member pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felonies and a misdemeanor in an agreement with prosecutors to resolve five operating while intoxicated cases and enter the Lake County Veterans Treatment Court.

David Scheeringa, 51, admitted in Judge Julie Cantrell’s courtroom Wednesday he resisted law enforcement, a level 6 felony, and operated a vehicle while intoxicated, a class C misdemeanor, on June 28, 2017, in Hobart.

Scheeringa was accused in that case of driving onto the 500 block of Third Street in a red pickup truck without headlights, police records state. He allegedly swerved into oncoming traffic several times on Main Street and failed to immediately stop when a police officer activated his emergency lights. He refused to perform field sobriety or breath tests after stopping in a store parking lot.

Scheeringa also pleaded guilty to operating while intoxicated, a level 6 felony. He was accused in that case of doing “burnouts” in the 700 block of 14th Street while attempting to back into a driveway, records state.

Scheeringa was ordered to pay court costs and a $200 fee. He will serve two years in the Veterans Treatment Court, which provides support and rehabilitation for veteran defendants. If he successfully completes the program, the two felony convictions will be reduced to class A misdemeanors.

The prosecutor’s office will dismiss three remaining operating while intoxicated cases as part of Scheeringa’s plea agreement.

The plea deal was negotiated by defense attorney Thomas S. Mullins and Lake County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara McConnell.

The agreement notes Scheeringa has been subject to the Veterans Treatment Court rules while the plea agreement was negotiated. During that time, he completed addiction and behavior counseling, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings twice a week and wore an alcohol-monitoring bracelet.

The prosecutor’s office initially opposed Scheeringa’s bid to enter the treatment court. The office noted in a motion in February he had four prior convictions for operating while intoxicated, with his first offense occurring in 1997.

The prosecutor’s office also said Scheeringa was in active duty in the U.S. Army for only four months and 15 days, which made it unlikely there was a connection between his military service and his criminal charges.

Scheeringa said Wednesday the prosecutor’s office apparently did not realize he also served seven years of military service in the U.S. Air Force. He said the prosecutor’s office had relied on an incomplete DD Form 214 when it made that claim.

Cantrell noted Scheeringa looked much healthier since he first appeared before her in January. She said the probation department noted he has done everything expected of him while awaiting the case’s resolution, and they expected he would be a “rock star” in the program.

Scheeringa previously served on the Hobart Township Board, and a felony conviction would have made him ineligible to continue serving as an elected official. The issue became irrelevant after he was beaten by a primary challenger for his seat in May.

Mullins said he wanted to have Scheeringa’s alcohol-monitoring bracelet removed, though such a term was not included in his plea agreement. Cantrell said she would consider the motion after the holidays.

Scheeringa’s next court hearing is Dec. 12.

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