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No more cars for illegal driver

November 19, 2005

An Odell senior citizen pleaded guilty on Wednesday to contempt of court charges that were related to 15 citations for driving with a suspended license during 2005.

Hood River Circuit Court Judge Paul Crowley accepted the plea of Jose DeJesus Magana-Garcia, 63, on two counts of violating court directives. He ordered the defendant to get rid of any vehicles still in his possession. Crowley also directed that Magana-Garcia’s daughter and probation officer control his money to prevent him from buying other cars.

The Davis Drive resident was warned not to travel with anyone not pre-approved by his probation officer. That directive was intended to end Magana-Garcia’s recent strategy of getting accomplices to bail his vehicle out of the impound yard.

When he was unable to retrieve his own automobiles without a valid license, Magana-Garcia enlisted the help of friends, according to reports.

Magana’s practice was to buy cars from friends for several hundred dollars but leave the registration in their name. That way, these individuals could redeem the vehicle once he was caught behind the wheel. Once they had gained the release of his car, Magana-Garcia was back on the road.

His license had been taken away, said Crowley, because of a medical condition that created cognitive impairment. The judge contended that Magana-Garcia’s failure to respect that reality had become a public safety concern.

“I’m trying to find a balance here. You are suffering from this limitation and it is making you very frustrated, and that is understandable. But you are also a menace to yourself and others when you drive,” said Crowley.

“I feel compassion for you in your frustration but I also have a responsibility to protect you and the community,” he continued.

Magana-Garcia’s two daughters told Crowley that their father had found a legal way to get out and about. He now takes the Columbia Area Transit bus into town every day. They said his love of the daily soup entrée at Safeway was the primary reason that he had insisted upon getting behind the wheel.

Crowley advised the family members to take Magana-Garcia’s sentence seriously. He gave the senior five years of probation – with 30 days of jail time if he was again found in contempt of court.

“I’m doing this because I don’t want to have to put him in jail. But you need to work with me to do that,” he said.

The judge then turned to Magana-Garcia and gave the following statement through a bilingual interpreter, “My promise to you is that if you drive a vehicle you’re going to jail. I want to make sure it’s black and white — if you cross that line you go to jail.”

Deputy District Attorney Carrie Rasmussen said Magana-Garcia’s illegal driving also played out as a probation violation in his domestic violence case.

He had been allowed to receive anger management treatment instead of serving time for an assault on his wife. However, to enter the diversion program, Rasmussen said the subject had agreed to obey all laws – including the rules of the road.

“This was a very unusual case. Mr. Magana-Garcia has some personal limitations that differentiate him from other folks who may be engaged in criminal conduct of a similar nature,” she said.

Crowley told Magana-Garcia that his wife would likely be more comfortable returning home if he changed his behavior patterns.

“If you want to regain her trust, you need to follow the rules,” he said.

The judge directed Magana-Garcia to return to court on Jan. 30 for a review of his case. He wanted to ensure the frequent offender was staying on track with his probation.

Magana-Garcia’s infractions have not yet reached the level that qualifies for criminal prosecution, according to District Attorney John Sewell. If he racks up more than 21 moving violations – including driving with a suspended license — he could be put behind bars for a Class I misdemeanor.

During 2005, Magana-Garcia received 23 total traffic violations, but eight were for not wearing a seatbelt and other minor violations.

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