Man sentenced to 57 months for felony DWI

Joe West

Joe West

Isanti County District Judge Karla Hancock sentenced Joseph John West IV, of rural Isanti, on July 29 to four years and nine months in prison on a felony DWI charge based on his arrest Jan. 3 in Cambridge.

West will have 170 days of the sentence subtracted for time spent in prison awaiting the sentencing. Once serving his sentence, he is to be on conditional release for five years.

Hancock’s sentence followed the recommendation of Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad and rejected the recommendation of West’s defense attorney Mark Kelly that West be placed on probation.

Kelly argued West has established a “solid record of treatment” for chemical abuse and was now amenable for probation and for remaining law abiding.

Edblad argued the opposite, reading off the list of violations West has committed in the past nearly 21 years, including West’s vehicular homicide that resulted in the death of Beth Reichel in May 2002. He was sentenced on June 12, 2003 to nearly 80 months for that.

The only time that West has maintained sobriety is “when incarcerated,” Edblad told the court.

According to Edblad, West has had four felonies as a juvenile, four felonies as an adult, seven misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors and 17 traffic offenses.

Hancock in her sentencing July 29, dropped the $50 fine that is the state minimum, and dismissed the less misdemeanor charges stemming from the Jan. 3 arrest. But Hancock refused Kelly’s request that the $5,000 performance bond West had posted be returned to him. The court kept the $5,000 because of West missing a bail bond hearing. Hancock did agree to return the $10,000 bail bond that West’s father had posted.

Edblad told the court that if “anyone has earned a bed in prison” it is West for his failure to not use a controlled substance. For anyone to state the defendant is amenable to probation “flies in the face” of the findings in the pre-sentence investigation, Edblad said.

Kelly maintained in court that all the chemical dependency and neurological treatments that West has gone through have prepared him for probation.

Edblad responded that West’s time at multiple chemical treatment centers and then his months at the neurological facility in Brainerd for treating West’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) should have given him the “necessary tools to maintain sobriety. Yet with all that, West has continued to “act out in the fashion” shown in his record, Edblad said. He called West’s criminal record “frightening to report,” and said it includes a long history of using meth.

“He has demonstrated he can’t remain sober or follow the rules of the court,” Edblad said.

Kelly made a motion for dismissal of West’s latest charges, arguing that the conviction is double jeopardy and unconstitutional, but Hancock denied Kelly’s motion, stating this was not a case of double jeopardy.

Kelly, after the sentencing, said he plans to appeal the DWI conviction that West was just sentenced for on the basis that Kelly did not feel there was credible evidence for the charge. Kelly talked about West having metabolized meth in his system at the time of the Jan. 3 arrest but no drugs found in the car. Kelly asked Hancock if the court would listen to the video showing West’s driving that brought the arrest and Hancock declined to hear it. According to Kelly the driving was not “erratic” as the criminal complaint stated.

Kelly’s assertion of double jeopardy was based on Kelly’s belief the court’s keeping of the $5,000 performance bond was already punishment. Kelly characterized Isanti County’s requirement of a cash performance bond unusual in Minnesota.

Edblad stated West should have been atoning for the death of Beth Reichel by paying the court ordered restitution to the deceased family. West still owes the family $72,000 and could have made attempts to make payments over the past 12 years, Edblad said.

Edblad also said the state’s sentencing guidelines are clear in the case of West, and said he could have called for a much higher sentence than the 57 months he is recommending.

Kelly said the court would lose nothing by placing West back on probation rather than sending him back to prison.

Edblad described West as a “high risk defendant” based on his history of multiple violations.

Hancock took Edblad’s stance, telling West she doesn’t believe he is amenable to probation whether he did or did not complete treatment programs. Hancock continued that West violated rules on drug testing and drug use and considers him a “very serious public safety risk.”

Hancock did allow Kelly to read a written statement from West, in which West declared that his life had changed as the result of the death of Beth Reichel, and that he can never forgive himself. West went on that he turned to drugs to deal with the emotional pain from it all, and talked about his TBI and major depression.

“I ask that you not lock me up and throw away the key,” West’s statement read, and referred to a “bed awaiting” him in a treatment center.

Hancock, minutes before the sentencing stated, “I haven’t heard anything that has persuaded me to depart from the sentencing guidelines.” She called Edblad’s recommendation for a 57 month prison sentence the “low end of the box” in the guidelines and called it “probably generous under these circumstances.”

Hancock, in agreeing to return the $10,000 bail money to West’s father, said that the $5,000 cash performance bond “is gone,” telling West that he had every opportunity to comply with the conditions of his release and didn’t; therefore, he would not get the $5,000 back.

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