A self-admitted alcoholic was sent to prison this week following his 12th DUII conviction over a 35-year time span.
Tommy Waldon, 51, was sentenced on Thursday after being convicted of his latest DUII in an April 2 jury trial. He was ordered by Hood River Circuit Court Judge Paul Crowley to spend 45 months behind bars, followed by two years of post-prison supervision and payment of a $2,000 fine.
"You're a poster child for why there is now a felony DUII," said Crowley. "I really did hope about two years ago that you were going to pull it through but it's clear now that you're not."
Waldon was also given 30 days in the county jail for driving with a suspended license at the time of his latest arrest in Nov. of 2001. Crowley directed him to serve out his time at NORCOR before entering the state penitentiary. In addition, the judge permanently revoked Waldon's drivers license.
Hood River District Attorney John Sewell asked Crowley to take a hard stand against Waldon because of his long criminal history that included numerous failed treatment programs for drugs and alcohol abuse.
"I've always felt that my job is to try to protect this community and I don't think I'd be doing that job if I didn't ask for a tough sentence," said Sewell. "Mr. Waldon is a menace to this community and it's just a matter a time before he kills himself or somebody else."
To underscore that statement, he put Waldon's probation officer, James Bondurant, on the stand to testify about his long criminal history, including an attempted assault conviction in 1986 when he doused a police officer with gasoline and then attempted to set him on fire with a propane torch.
"He told me I could put him in jail all I wanted too but he would continue to use and abuse alcohol and/or controlled substances," said Bondurant, director of the county's community corrections department.
However, Kurt Peterson, Waldon's court-appointed attorney, objected to having previous criminal activity factored into the sentencing beyond the four DUII convictions within a 10 year period that raised the level of charges from a misdemeanor to a felony. He also said the penalty should not be more than the 30-month standard sentence for the crime.
"I don't think it's appropriate for the court to essentially double dip and further punish Mr. Waldon for something the legislature has already taken into account," said Peterson.
In his address to the court, Waldon asked Crowley to take into consideration that when he was sent to prison he would be unable to pay court fines from a Washington State case so would likely end up with more jail time upon his release.
"It looks like I'm going to be doing a lot of time either way," said Waldon.
"In my opinion a DUII is often an assault or manslaughter waiting to happen and the fact that you haven't run into or over someone or something and have 12 DUII's is absolutely incredible," said Crowley.
"What's most amazing to me about Mr. Waldon's life is that he's still alive," said Sewell.