Apr

2

South Florida Millionaire Convicted of DUI Vehicular Manslaughter

By Mike

A man colorfully described by the Washington Post as a “South Florida polo mogul” was convicted on charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide this week after a fatal drunk driving crash that occurred two years ago.

A jury in Palm Beach County convicted 48-year-old John Goodman on both of the felony charges, which were raised in response to the death of 23-year-old Scott Wilson, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Sources say that, two years, ago, an inebriated Goodman sped through a stop sign and slammed his Bentley into Wilson’s car, which caused Wilson to roll into a canal, where the victim eventually died.

Shockingly, Goodman reportedly fled from the scene and waited roughly an hour before calling 911 to report the incident. At the time of the accident, sources say that Goodman’s blood alcohol level was measured at .177, which is more than twice the legal limit.

Despite the negative verdict, Goodman’s DUI attorney, Roy Black, said that he and his client plan to appeal the decision, though he did not offer any concrete examples of the portions of the trial the two would be challenging.

Nevertheless, in Black’s words, “multiple errors were committed during and before the trial that, in effect, denied our client’s ability to get a fair trial. We intend to file an appeal so that our client can receive the just and fair proceeding to which he is entitled by law.”

Of course, the prosecutors in the case feel differently. According to State Attorney Peter Antonacci, “the jury in the Goodman case exercised sound judgment in its analysis of the factual and expert evidence in this trial.”

In addition, Antonacci observed that “Scott Wilson was a young man with a bright future, and his life was tragically cut short. I hope that Scott’s family now experiences some closure so that the healing process can go forward in this particularly tragic event.”

The Goodman trial has captured the attention of many legal observers in Florida due to the shocking nature of the accident, and the relative wealth of the accused man.

Goodman is the founder and owner of the International Polo Club in Palm Beach, and, as evidence by the use of his Bentley on that fateful night, has plenty of cash to burn.

Now, thanks to one very, very poor decision, Goodman faces the potential of spending the next 30 years in prison. Sources do not suggest whether the judge is leaning towards a lighter sentence, but this will be determined at the sentencing hearing on April 30.

Mar

13

Massachusetts Man Arrested for Fifth DUI After Fatal Car Accident

By Mike

Frederick J. Weller, a Massachusetts resident, is facing his fifth DUI charge, along with several other felony charges, after allegedly causing a five-car crash that led to the death of a 24-year-old woman.

The 35-year-old Weller, who is from Sandy Hook, Massachusetts, reportedly caused a massive traffic accident last week in Sheffield, Massachusetts, according to a recent report in The Berkshire Eagle. The accident left one woman dead and another driver has been hospitalized and is in serious condition.

Sources indicate that Weller, who has been arrested four previous times for driving under the influence of alcohol, is being held without bail in the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction.

Police often hold suspects without bail if they believe they are a risk for flight or have committed a serious enough offense that it warrants keeping them behind bars pending a trial.

Sources say that, during his initial arraignment in Central Berkshire District Court, Weller was “emotional” when the judge ordered that he be held without bail until he faces a “dangerousness hearing” next week in court.

If Weller fails to prove to the court that he is not a danger to others upon release, he may have a continued stay in jail until he has a chance to prove his innocence at trial.

In addition to his fifth DUI charge, which warrants a serious felony penalty itself, Weller is also facing charges of vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of property damage, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, and intimidating a witness.

According to the police report, Weller allegedly left his vehicle after the accident and threatened two witnesses before he left the scene on foot. When he exited his car, witnesses claim that Weller appeared injured and bloodied.

While Weller has a long history of drunk driving offenses, he also apparently has a lengthy criminal record for other offenses, as well.

Sources say Weller was arrested in August 2011 at his home in connection with a complaint about potential larceny. He was also charged with threatening a witness after a DUI accident in 2005.

For his actions, Weller could be facing a lengthy prison sentence and a hefty fine. Judges are often less lenient with multiple DUI offenders, and the addition of a fatality into the DUI accident raises plenty of alarms in a courtroom.

With his shaky record, and the sordid alleged details of the recent incident, Weller is likely facing a very lengthy prison term.

Feb

13

Pardoned DUI Convict May Have Caused Fatal Accident After Release

By Mike

Haley Barbour, the former governor of Mississippi, raised many eyebrows after he pardoned more than 200 convicted felons in his home state when he left office. One of these pardons has already come back to haunt him.

In January, Barbour pardoned Harry Bostisk, who was a convicted DUI felon residing in a jail in Oxford, Mississippi, according to a report this week from CNN.com.

Bostick was in a jail cell awaiting charges from a drunk driving accident involving the death of 18-year-old Charity Smith. Fault for the accident has yet to be determined, but Bostick’s presence in jail wasn’t only related to the fatal accident.

Sources indicate that Bostick was initially thrown into jail for violating the terms of his probation that had been a result of a previous DUI sentence. In fact, Bostick appears to have a long record of drunk driving problems and subsequent good fortune with the police and court system in Mississippi.

According to CNN, Bostick was arrested for a felony drunk driving offense in March 2009. That incident was Bostick’s third arrest for drunk driving in a little more than a year, which is a staggeringly high rate of DUI arrests.

After his third DUI arrest, Bostick was eventually sentenced in March 2010 to a year of house arrest and four years in an alcohol treatment program, which had strict guidelines for repeat offenders.

During the beginning stages of this program, which occurred through the state’s drug court, Bostick began lobbying the governor for a pardon. Bostick had several high-profile friends send letters to the governor, claiming that Bostick’s behavior could be explained by a recent divorce with his wife and the recent death of his son in a freak house fire.

These letters, apparently, had an effect on the governor, as he eventually pardoned Bostick after receiving advice from the Mississippi Parole Board, which recommended a pardon by a vote of 3-2.

And, according to sources, one week after Bostick allegedly caused the fatal accident that resulted in the death of 18-year-old Charity Smith, he was unceremoniously released from jail.

State officials claim that Bostick had been pardoned before the accident, and that they did not realize he had caused the fatal accident when they released him from jail.

Of course, while charges have not officially been filed, the case is already a nightmare for the Mississippi Parole Board and Haley Barbour. Critics of the former governor were already claiming that he had abused his pardon privileges, and this incident simply adds fuel to their arguments.

Jan

31

Race Car Driver Arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Miami

By Mike

A Brazilian race car driver was recently arrested for a DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide after allegedly causing an accident that killed a pedestrian in Miami Beach last week, according to a report from NBC Miami.

The South American race car driver, 20-year-old Joao Paulo Escudero Mauro, made his first appearance this Friday in Miami-Dade courtroom, where the judge set his bond at a lofty sum of $250,000.

Despite this high price tag, though, Mauro soon posted bond later that afternoon, but the court will follow his movements with an ankle monitor and the Brazilian driver had to surrender his passport.

According to a report from Miami Beach police, Mauro was driving his Mercedes-Benz SUV on Collins Avenue at a speedy clip of 60 miles per hour in a 30 miles per hour zone. While he was speeding north on Collins, Mauro allegedly swerved to the left and drove onto a nearby sidewalk.

At the same time, which was roughly 1:30 a.m. last Thursday night, 45-year-old Russell Knudson was trying to squeeze his bicycle into a rear door of his Toyota SUV when he was hit and killed by the speeding Mercedes, according to police.

After the accident, Mauro allegedly drove the Mercedes further along the sidewalk until he eventually stopped several yards later.

When police made first contact with Mauro, he reportedly had bloodshot eyes and a flushed face, and his breath apparently smelled like alcohol. Mauro admitted to police that he had been drinking earlier, and he claimed that he swerved his car to avoid another vehicle that had stopped in traffic in front of him.

While the presence of another car in the road could support Mauro’s claim that he is not guilty, Mauro’s felony DUI charge could be enhanced by the possible presence of drugs, as well as his admitted alcohol use.

When police arrested him, they noted that Mauro’s left nostril contained a “white powdery substance” and the arresting officers found a small bag of a substance that looked a lot like cocaine. The bag was found close to the area where Mauro was standing.

So, in addition to the charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, the Brazilian national will also have to defend himself against a charge of cocaine possession.

Police also noted that Mauro had “a white powdery substance in his left nostril,” and that they found a small baggie of what appeared to be cocaine near where he was standing. He was later charged with cocaine possession in addition to the DUI and vehicular homicide charges.

Mauro, however, remains undaunted, and his attorney said that he and the defendant “believe that the evidence will show that Mr. Mauro was not driving under the influence or involved in vehicular homicide.”

In addition to this claim of innocence, Mauro’s attorney also acknowledged that the defendant felt “very badly for the Knudson family.”

Mauro has competed for a few years in Brazilian stock car racing and recently made his American appearance last June at the Road America 200 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge in Wisconsin.

Jan

6

Repeat DUI Offender Flees Hospital After Crash

By Mike

A California driver who was arrested for a DUI faces additional criminal charges after he fled his hospital room, where he was being treated for injuries caused by his negligent driving, in order to evade police.

52-year-old James Thomas Miller, a resident of Santa Rose, California, was arrested last week on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol after allegedly causing a crash on Highway 1 near Sebastopol, California, according to a report from the Press Democrat.

When police officers responded to the scene of the accident, they discovered that Miller had driven his Ford pickup truck off the road, which caused the car to strike an embankment. The force of this collision sent the truck spinning back onto the road, where it eventually overturned.

Emergency personnel who responded to the accident sent both the driver, Miller, and his passenger to a hospital to be treated for their wounds. This is where events grew even more interesting.

When police arrived at the hospital to question the driver, they discovered 46-year-old Kimberley Turpen, who was being treated for injuries to her head and arm. Turpen told police that she had only been a passenger, and that Miller had been driving the truck at the time of the accident.

To the officers’ chagrin, when they tried to locate Miller, hospital officials told them that he had fled the premises before the police arrived.

Fortunately for police, though, the injured driver did not get very far. They soon discovered Miller at a nearby bus stop, where he was seen stumbling around a road.

When police arrested Miller at the bus stop, they determined that he was drunk because he failed a field sobriety test, and Miller was arrested for drunk driving and other charges.

Miller faces a long road to freedom, as this is not his first DUI offense. Sources indicate that Miller has been arrested for three prior DUI offenses, as well as seven suspended license infractions. Miller was also on probation at the time of the accident.

And, under California DUI laws, Miller may face an addition felony charge for being arrested for his fourth DUI within a span of 10 years.

While most states’ DUI laws are different, almost every state punishes repeat DUI offenders more harshly than people who have only committed one offense.

Possible additional punishments for repeat DUI drivers include steeper fines, longer jail sentences, possible prison sentences, and suspended licenses. If they are allowed to driver in the future, drivers with multiple DUIs may have to use breathalyzer devices in their cars to ensure that they are sober every time they drive.

After a few DUI convictions, many drivers lose their license to drive for significant periods of time, and DUI drivers may spend up to several years in prison for their transgressions.

Dec

29

Montana Man Jailed for Fourth DUI After Fight With Police

By Mike

A recent DUI arrest in Missoula, Montana, spun out of control when the driver began attacking local police, who responded to the abuse by tasing the man twice and hauling him off to jail after his fourth DUI arrest.

Police arrested 40-year-old Roy Vincent Adams on suspicion of drunk driving after they perceived that his car driving erratically, according to a recent report from The Missoulian.

Sources indicate that, immediately before the arrest, police noticed Adams gunning his engine on slick, icy roads, which caused his car to swerve wildly and almost led him to crash his vehicle directly into a police cruiser.

When police officers, who were trailing Adams, turned on their lights, Adams attempted to flee by speeding in an opposite direction. His efforts, however, were to no avail, as Adams simply ran his truck into a curb.

According to the police report filed after the incident, Adams left his car after being pulled over and started pacing back and forth, in what police deemed a threatening and erratic manner.

When Adams allegedly ignored an officer’s demand to sit on the curb, the arresting officers grabbed Adams and a fight ensued. Adams allegedly struck one officer in the chest, and was able to continue fighting even after the police tased him twice.

The police report also indicates that Adams continued screaming obscenities at police officers after he was handcuffed and incapacitated. Sources say that Adams, who has been held in a local jail on a $15,000 bail, has been convicted three times before on DUI charges.

Adams is facing a litany of charges, including felony DUI, assault, resisting arrest and attacking a police officer, and reckless driving.

Interestingly, police were able to obtain a blood sample from Adams via a mandatory blood test, rather than a breath test, which Adams refused to give.

The administration of “no refusal” blood tests has recently gained traction in several states, as police officers have looked for an alternative method of determining a suspect’s blood alcohol level when the driver refuses to give a breath test.

The use of the blood test has drawn the ire of civil rights attorneys who criticize law enforcement officials for using the remarkably invasive method of drawing blood from noncompliant suspects.

In the absence of a less-invasive blood alcohol testing method, however, it seems that police will continue to rely on mandatory blood tests when DUI suspects refuse to breath into breathalyzer devices.

Of course, as technology continues to grow at an exponential pace, there may soon be a DUI testing method that allows police to determine a suspect’s blood alcohol level without touching him or her at all.

This method, though, will raise new concerns about privacy, as police could theoretically administer such a non-invasive test to everyone, regardless of their level of suspicion.

These issues serve to highlight an inescapable reality of modern DUI law: as technology continues to give police more enforcement options, defendants will keep arguing that the new tactics give police too much control over civilian drivers.

Dec

6

DUI Arrest Leads to Discovery of Dead Body

By Mike

In a shocking turn of events for unsuspecting traffic police, a recent DUI arrest led to the discovery of a dead body in South Carolina.

According to WMBF News in South Carolina, 28-year-old Christopher Heck was pulled over by police on the night before Thanksgiving when the officers suspected that Heck was driving under the influence of alcohol.

When they pulled Heck over, the arresting officers suspected he was hiding something, so they searched his car. The search yielded surprising results, as the police discovered several stolen items and an ID card that belonged to 47-year-old Charlotte Altman.

In response to this discovery, local investigators went to Altman’s home to ask about the stolen items and missing ID. When they arrived at the home, they found signs of a break-in, so they searched the house.

To their shock, investigators found Altman’s dead body on the kitchen floor. Initial findings suggested that Altman had been fatally stabbed in the neck.

Sources indicate that Altman did not live in the home permanently, but that she sometimes visited on the weekends to do cleaning and regular maintenance, and that she may have been planning to eventually move into the home.

In recent weeks, Heck had been staying with his grandmother in her house in Manning, South Carolina. His grandmother’s house was located next door to Altman’s home.

Investigators believe that Altman and Heck did not know each other, but that they were aware of each other’s presence next door. Police believe that Heck probably knew that she was only in the home during weekends.

Officers theorized that Heck broke into the home believing that Altman was out of town and, when he discovered her during the break-in, panicked and stabbed her in the neck.

In addition to his potential conviction on charges of a felony DUI and murder, Heck is also being investigated for the commission of two other burglaries in the area. Police are conducting a thorough investigation, though, before they bring formal charges.

According to Clarendon County Sheriff’s Captain Kipp Coker, the police are “crossing our T’s and dotting our I’s and making sure we’re following up on things we are getting through the investigation.”

While the situation may seem extremely rare, it is surprising what criminals will do after committing a heinous crime. In many cases, such criminals are in an extremely agitated state of mind, and are simply not thinking clearly.

So, in this case, if Heck really did commit the murder, it’s little surprise that he was inebriated and not thinking clearly at the time of his DUI arrest.

If, indeed, Heck is found to be guilty, South Carolina police will consider themselves fortunate to have discovered the suspect so quickly after the crime. Without the discovery of stolen items during the DUI arrest, Heck may have eluded police for a much longer time.

Nov

22

Teenager Fears Prison After Fatal DUI Crash

By Mike

Teenagers, alcohol, and late-night driving are a recipe for disaster, as was recently shown in a tragic DUI-related accident that recently occurred in northern California.

According to the San Mateo County Times, Sean Quintero, a 19-year-old resident of San Francisco who had been drinking and partying on that fatal night, was involved in a serious car accident that killed one of the passengers in his car.

Sources indicate that the teenager was driving along Highway 101 towards the southern part of San Francisco with a blood alcohol content of .16, which is twice the legal limit of .08 for adults over the age of 21.

Apparently, Quintero was driving home from a party and loudly discussing music with the four passengers in his car when he failed to notice that traffic ahead had come to a stop. The traffic had stopped because of an unrelated car collision minutes before the Quintero accident.

Tragically, Quintero noticed the stopped cars too late, and rammed his Toyota, which was his mother’s car, into the back of another vehicle.

When the accident occurred, Quintero’s friend, 17-year-old Margaret Qaqish was pressed against her seatbelt and suffered severe internal injuries. The force of the accident was so powerful that she suffered fatal damage to her internal organs.

Qaqish, who was a senior at a San Francisco high school, had been sitting in the rear middle seat of the car, so she may have also struck the back of another seat or another person. Fortunately, though, the other three passengers in the car were not seriously injured.

The accident occurred around 3:20 a.m. and all the occupants of the car had allegedly been drinking that night. Quintero, to his credit, has expressed serious remorse for the tragic accident, according to his DUI attorney.

Quintero has accepted responsibility for his actions, as he recently pleaded no contest to charges of drunk driving and causing a crash with a fatality.

The felony charges could put Quintero in prison for up to four years and four months, though his sentence will not be determined by a local judge until this January. Until then, Quintero will have to await news of his fate.

In addition to the possible prison sentence, the teenager could also face severe financial penalties. He is currently being held in jail on a 325,000 bond.

Historically, young males have disproportionately higher rates of drunk driving accidents. And DUI accidents tend to be more dangerous as the drivers grow younger and more intoxicated.

For teenagers who are out drinking and do not want to alarm their parents, there are still plenty of ways to get home without endangering friends or other drivers.

For example, public transportation, including buses or trains, and taxis offer safe, reliable ways to get home.

Nov

3

Driver Sentenced to 25 Years for DUI Hit and Run

By Mike

In a sobering reminder that drunk driving often has severe consequences, a 46-year-old woman in South Carolina was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison after killing a pedestrian in a hit-and-run DUI accident.

According to The Herald, Dianne Alice Webster, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, was convicted on charges of a felony DUI with a death, leaving the scene of an accident with death and committing a hit-and-run violation with injury.

Sources indicate that Webster struck Lorenzo Hemphill and his brother, Antwan, as the two were walking down a well-traveled street in Rock Hill at roughly 9:30 p.m. Antwan died an hour after the accident, while Lorenzo suffered only minor injuries.

After hitting the two brothers, Webster allegedly sped off down the street, and ran into a building, before she recovered and was eventually pulled over for speeding by police.

When she was arrested, Webster failed to perform standard field sobriety tests. And, though her blood alcohol content was measured at .0013, which is below the legal limit of .08, she tested positive for high levels of the prescription drug Xanax.

Whatever was in her system, Webster was clearly impaired. In interviews with police after the accident, she denied that she hit any pedestrians, and also failed to remember any of the places she had been that night.

To make matters worse, Webster claimed that she did not know whose truck she was driving, and she insisted that the date was Tuesday when it was actually Saturday.

The judge, however, took some pity on Webster, and only sentenced her to 25 years for her felony DUI, when the maximum punishment could have been extended to 51 years. The judge expressed a desire for Webster to seek treatment for her addition problems in prison.

At trial, Webster’s case was also strengthened by the testimony of a number of friends, who said that Webster suffered from serious psychological and addiction issues, and had been emotionally destroyed after learning of Hemphill’s death.

The relatively lenient sentence may have disappointed the Hemphill family, who observed that Webster had displayed a pattern of dangerous driving throughout her entire life.

Sources indicate that Webster had been charged with a DUI three times before, and had been charged with driving with a suspended license four times in an eight-year span.

This tragedy raises a few key issues about DUI arrests. First, many people who are arrested for a DUI are not necessarily drunk. Abuse of prescription drugs or illegal narcotics is also a common cause of arrests for driving under the influence.

In addition, the potential consequences of a felony DUI are significantly higher than those for a DUI that is lowered to a misdemeanor.

Of course, in cases where there is a fatality, or where the driver leaves the scene of an accident, the odds are high that a driver will be subject to larger penalties.

Oct

31

Grandma Allegedly Commits DUI With Grandkids in Car

By Mike

The stereotypical drunk driver is usually young, often male, and is typically driving alone or with other people his age. Rarely are drunk drivers assumed to be mothers or, heaven forbid, grandmothers.

The truth, however, is that all sorts of people are arrested for drunk driving every day. And, while young males are arrested for DUIs more often than any other age bracket, they do not hold a monopoly on driving under the influence of alcohol.

This reality was recently on display in Lancaster, California, where a grandmother of three was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol while she had three of her grandchildren in her car.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, 55-year-old Marie Shipley will soon make her first appearance in a Los Angeles County courtroom as she faces felony DUI charges for the disturbing incident.

Sources indicate that Shipley was arrested after driving drunk on a Monday afternoon while transporting three grandsons, aged 7, 11, and 13, from a local park.

While she was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol, the boys began arguing, and at least one of her grandsons jumped out of the car while it was moving.

According to the police report from the incident, the boy who jumped out of the car attempted to re-enter the vehicle, but Shipley sped away, preventing him from getting back into the car. Eventually, Shipley slowed down and took the boy home after he started crying.

Shipley’s daughter later took the boy to the hospital, where he had treatment for minor injuries sustained during the incident.

While this episode seems laughable (despite its potentially severe consequences), incidents of elderly drunk driving are fairly commonplace. In addition, alcohol abuse by older Americans is often ignored and untreated.

As people age, they grow increasingly susceptible to the negative effects of alcohol. This increased sensitivity, combined with the natural loss of reflexes that occurs with aging, can sometimes have serious effects for older drivers.

While a driver may have been able to drive after a few glasses of wine in his or her younger days, that same amount of alcohol might render the person unable to drive responsibly in later years.

As the American population continues to grow older, incidents of drunk driving among older drivers may become more of a public hazard.

Of course, many drivers who operate a car under the influence of alcohol at least have the decency to leave children out of the car. And, if they do drive children, they usually don’t play games where the children are leaping in and out of a moving vehicle.

So, it seems safe to say that Shipley’s actions, while abhorrent, don’t represent typical behavior amongst older drivers.

Sep

26

Ryan Gosling’s Secret DUI Revealed by Gossip Magazine

By Mike

In a sign that gossip magazines’ obsession with celebrity drunk driving arrests may have gone too far, Radar Online recently reported on a celebrity DUI that occurred more than half a decade ago.

Ryan Gosling, the unwitting victim of a media with a long memory, managed to keep a 2005 DUI arrest out of the public eye until last week.

According to Radar Online, the popular star of films such as “The Notebook” and “Lars and the Real Girl” was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol way back in March of 2005.

Sources indicate that he was arrested by California Highway Patrol officers from the force’s central Los Angeles location.

Fortunately for Gosling, he and his DUI lawyer were able to lower his punishment. While Gosling was initially charged with a DUI, and his breathalyzer test allegedly revealed a blood alcohol level well above the legal limit of .08, both these charges were eventually dropped.

Instead, Gosling pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of “exhibiting speed.” According to sources, he was sentenced to two years of probation and had to pay roughly $800 in fines.

Cases like these, in which a celebrity escapes a DUI arrest with relatively minor charges, sometimes raises the public’s ire. If a celebrity is perceived to escape the consequences of his actions, people may view the end result as unjust.

However, while celebrities often see DUI charges dropped or reduced, average Joes are often just as capable of fighting their drunk driving arrests.

There are hundreds of things that can go wrong during a DUI arrest. If the police make a procedural error, or a mistake in judgment, the DUI charge may not hold as much weight in court.

In addition, courts often treat first-time offenders with more leniency than they handle people who have habitually violated the law.

Of course, even if the charges are reduced, most people do not face the challenge of having news of their arrest appear in a grocery store checkout line six years after the event occurred.

While DUI convictions are technically part of the public record, they do not have to end careers or lead to financial disaster.

By taking aggressive steps immediately after a DUI arrest, many people have a better chance of defending their legal rights in court.

For what it’s worth, Ryan Gosling’s career certainly seems to have survived his brush with the law in 2005.

The Canadian actor is currently starring as a stunt driver in the film “Drive,” which may have prompted the excursion through his driving record, and has had a leading role in at least half a dozen major movies in the last few years.

So, whether you are a big-time actor or just a regular non-famous civilian, remember that a DUI arrest is not always the end of the world. As Gosling can attest, regaining the freedom to drive again may be quite simple.

Jul

28

Miami Police Officer Charged with Four Counts in Drunk Driving Accident

By Topher

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one says it all. Two on-duty Miami police officers mug and smile for the camera while surrounded by five young women celebrating a bachelorette party July 2 at the Clevelander hotel.

Later the same night, one of the officers, Derick Kuilan, took the bachelorette for a joyride on a department-owned ATV, crashing into and seriously injuring two innocent beachgoers.

The picture was released Tuesday by Miami-Dade prosecutors as they charged Kuilan with two felony counts of reckless driving with serious bodily injury and two counts of DUI with serious bodily injury. The second officer, Rolando Gutierrez, does not face criminal charges.

“It is mind-boggling that they felt comfortable enough to do something like that,” Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega told the Miami Herald.

Both officers have been fired from the department since the time of the incident.

Details of what allegedly happened are outlined in a warrant prepared by prosecutor David I. Gilbert and Miami Beach detective Robert Silvagni:

Derick Kuilan was assigned to ATV patrol, midnight shift, on July 3 and Officer Rolando Gutierrez was assigned to patrol mid-Beach.

That night, the pair of officers walked into the Clevelander hotel bar, a known attraction for tourists, around 5 a.m.

A group of young women from Pennsylvania were celebrating a bachelorette party when the officers arrived. After posing for a picture with the group, Kuilan and Gutierrez began dancing and drinking.

Kuilan then invited the bachelorette, Adalee Martin, to take a ride with him on the ATV he had parked nearby, to which Martin agreed.

The two drove south along the beach at alternating speeds, turning the headlights on and off as they neared approaching pedestrians. When they arrived at the end of the beach and turned around, they drove back north with the vehicle’s lights turned off.

On the drive back, the ATV crashed into Kitzie Nicanor and Luis Almonte, who were on the beach dipping their feet in the water. Bystanders claimed that the ATV whizzed by and that “they could barely see it, because it had no lights on and it was traveling fast,” according to the warrant.

Almonte suffered a broken femur, requiring surgery, while Nicanor had to have her spleen removed and remains hospitalized in serious condition.

Kuilan surrendered to the Miami-Dade County Jail after being charged Tuesday and has already posted $30,000 bail. His arraignment is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Jul

25

Montana Man Faces 15 Years in Prison After Sixth DUI Arrest

By Topher

A judge in rural Ravalli County in northwestern Montana recently sent a message to a state that, among other notorieties, saw a local representative try to repeal DUI laws this year.

Judge James Haynes sentenced Scott Adams, a 40 year-old Montana resident, to 15 years in state prison after Adams was convicted of driving under the influence for the sixth time.

Adams, who lives in Stevensville, Montana, has previously received three probationary sentences for his drinking and driving habits. The judge revoked these sentences when he issued his final decree.

According to The Missoulian, Adams’ sixth DUI charge violated three probationary sentences stemming from previous drunk driving incidents.

The first sentence was due to a 2005 incident in which Adams was charged with seven different crimes after a drunk driving accident. He was eventually charged with a felony DUI—his fifth such offense—and received a five-year suspended sentence.
In 2005, Adams also completed a rehabilitation and treatment program.

This incident, however, came on the heels of a 2004 accident in which Adams received another felony DUI charge—his fourth such conviction.

This crime revoked a third probationary sentence he’d received in 1998 after being charged with felony burglary and forgery. This sentence, though, was reduced to misdemeanor theft after Adams agreed to a six-year probationary period.

This long history of criminal behavior came back to haunt Adams after DUI number six. Adams’ own probation officer stated in a report that Adams saw felony probation as “somewhat of a game.”

His probation officer also reported that Adams would not stop drinking and driving until he “hurts or kills someone.” Fortunately, it appears no one was injured in his latest binge, but the judge also felt that Adams posed a serious threat to others.

Adams must serve five years in prison for each of his last three felony DUI charges. In addition, he must serve a year in a detention center for the past theft charges.
The judge saw imprisonment as the only possible method to keep Adams off Montana’s highways.

The dangers of drunk driving have been a hot topic in Montana after a state representative made an impassioned plea earlier this year for the state to repeal its drunk driving laws.

He argued that DUI laws were preventing people from going to local drinking establishments, thereby hurting the local economy.

Alas, this idea never came to pass, but it did stir up some national press coverage, to the chagrin of many Montana residents.

Jul

27

Illinois DUI Judge Convicts Driver of 15 Counts of DUI

By Topher

An Illinois DUI judge threw the book at 25-year-old Edward Clark after he hit and killed David Long and his dog Shadow, who were out walking early one morning last year.

The judge convicted Cook of reckless homicide, 15 counts of DUI, and one count of unlawful possession of a converted motor vehicle back in May.

Cook was driving down the residential street at a speed of about 50 miles per hour in Batavia, Illinois when he veered off the road and onto the sidewalk, hitting Long and Shadow. Cook was driving a 2003 white Ford Acura that he had borrowed from a friend without permission, according to CBS 2 Chicago.

The toxicology report showed that Cook had alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine in his system, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Cook maintains that he does not have a problem with drugs or alcohol, but his driving privileges had been revoked in 2008 due to an aggravated DUI. Cook was still on parole for that offense at the time of the crash.

Cook also has numerous drug, battery, and theft charges, but has never actually completed one of the sentences for these crimes.

The judge took that into consideration during the sentencing. The judge felt that since Cook doesn’t feel that he has any problems, he should be kept off the streets in order to keep others safe at the very least.

Long’s wife and the Illinois state prosecutors pushed for more, but the judge said case law would not support a charge of first degree murder. Instead, Cook will serve consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences, leading to a full amount of jail time of fifteen years. He will probably be out on parole in 10 years.

Cook refrained from making a statement to the judge, but did tell his mother that he loved her as he was being led out of the courtroom. Cook has never publicly apologized for killing David Long and his best friend.

Susan Long is satisfied with the sentence, but notes “this is another one of those stories that starts with drinking alcohol and ends with tragedy.”

Jul

9

Holdout Juror Leads to Mistrial in San Diego DUI Case

By Topher

A recent DUI case in San Diego was declared a mistrial after a single juror held off from deciding whether the defendant was behind the wheel when a car struck another vehicle and killed four people, according to 10 News.

Deanna Fridley was on trial in the case in which the four were killed in Pala Casino, California. Fridley claimed that she was not the driver of the car that got into the deadly December 14, 2007, accident, and one of the jurors in the case would not conclude that it was her, leading to the mistrial.

The jurors in the case informed the judge that they had reached an 11-1 deadlock. They had been apart for a holiday break, and on their return they announced that they could not come to a unanimous agreement on the charges.

Fridley was also accused of DUI causing injury and misdemeanor driving on a suspended license.

Judge Runston Maino, serving in the case, declined to enact a motion by the prosecution to replace the juror with an alternate juror. “You haven’t failed as jurors; you haven’t failed as individuals,” he told the jurors in light of their lack of unanimity.

Fridley, 26, faced four 15-years-to-life sentences if she had been convicted in the case. Her defense attorney, James Boyd, addressed the media after the mistrial was declared, saying that he was “really happy” with the result. “My question,” he said, “is how is it that 11 of them actually thought she was driving? It’s a real who-done-it. Was she driving or not?”

A retrial of the case could come in six to eight months, and there will be a status update in July.

According to prosecutors, Fridley was driving over 85 miles per hour and swerved over the lane divider before crashing into and killing Luis De Santiago, his wife Lina, and Luis Baez and his wife Rubi. They also claimed that Fridely had spent the day smoking meth and drinking with a friend. Fridley was allegedly driving a GMC Yukon, while the victims were in a Toyota Camry.

Fridley testified that she had switched seats with her friend before the crash. The friend, Anthony Boles, denies this claim.

Fridley will remain in custody, and her bail is set at $1 million.