COEUR d'ALENE - The driver accused of smashing into at least five vehicles in a high-speed chase on Interstate 90 had been arrested for DUI four other times, court records show.
Glenn M. McNutt, 50, is facing six charges from the car chase April 20, when he allegedly collided with at least five other vehicles and witnesses said hit speeds of 90 mph before the chase came to a halt near the 15th Street exit in Coeur d'Alene.
McNutt is in Kootenai County jail on $100,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today. He faces two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, felony DUI and aggravated battery, felony attempting to elude and failure to provide proof of insurance.
He faces up to 25 years on two of the felony charges alone.
First District Court records show that besides three DUIs between 2007 and 2010, McNutt was fined $500 for DUI in 1985 while he lived in Post Falls.
Records also show that he was cited for an alcohol and boating infraction in 2006, which was reduced to negligence, and that McNutt had his driver's license suspended at least one and a half years because of the three DUIs between 2007 and 2010.
At McNutt's sentencing for felony DUI in 2011 - the most recent incident before his April 20 arrest - the judge suspended McNutt's driver's license for one year, the least amount of time for a felony offense as outlined by Idaho statute.
"I'm not a threat to society for drinking and driving," McNutt told 1st District Judge Fred Gibler during the 2011 sentencing. "I will never drink again."
A third DUI in 10 years is automatically a felony infraction. Otherwise, DUIs are misdemeanor offenses. McNutt was arrested for DUI in September 2007, November 2008 and again in July 2010.
At his felony sentencing in 2011, prosecuting attorney Amy Borgman recommended Gibler suspend McNutt's driver's license for five years, the maximum amount allowed by statute.
Gibler said he believed the defendant was focusing on rehabilitation, according to court documents, and required an interlock breathalyzer device be installed on McNutt's car for up to one year after the defendant received his license back.
McNutt was also ordered to pay $1,273 and had a 90-day jail sentence withheld. He ended up serving nine days in jail. He faced up to 10 years in jail at the time.
"The defendant is taking care of the rehabilitation aspect," Gibler stated. I "feel you are sincere in statements to the court and you won't be doing this again."
But on April 20, 15 months after his two-year supervised probation ended, McNutt was arrested again for DUI - the fourth time in seven years.
He appeared so intoxicated that officers had to smash his car window and unlock the door because McNutt was unresponsive to their commands to exit the vehicle after driving erratically on the interstate from at least Post Falls and ending at the 15th Street off ramp, police reports state.
"He could hardly walk, let alone stand," an officer report described McNutt's condition, as McNutt sat in his 2006 Kia passenger car that was unable to run at that point after smashing into guard rails and other vehicles. "He had difficulty holding his head up."
Nobody was injured in the incident, police said.
It's the only time McNutt's alleged intoxication caused him to crash into other vehicles, according to court files. His previous arrests, where he registered blood alcohol content levels between .163 and .208, happened after he had been pulled over for swerving. Anything over .08 in Idaho is illegal.
"He almost ran us off the road twice and just kept going," Norbie Seres, one of the drivers McNutt reportedly rammed while driving eastbound on I-90 Saturday, stated in a report. One of the passengers in Seres' van was pregnant, and the collision caused the expecting mother to be "thrown forward quickly, which the seat belt caught her and hurt her stomach."
Daniel Jacobs' car also was reportedly struck on the interstate. He told police McNutt him from behind at "90 + MPH."
The "driver hit me from behind backed off, hit me again," he reported to police. "I was in the left lane, he tried to come around me and the guard rail, then swirved (sp) into the side of me, attempting to run me off the road."
Officers said that when McNutt looked at them during the arrest, it was as though he couldn't comprehend who they were. Blood sample results to determine McNutt's BAC weren't available Thursday.
For the 2007 case, McNutt was fined $750 and given 18 hours of sheriff's labor in lieu of jail. He had his license suspended for 90 days, but was granted work privilege. For the second DUI in 2008, McNutt was fined $600, $500 of which was suspended. He spent two days in jail and had his license taken away for 90 days.
In 2006, McNutt pleaded guilty to negligence stemming from having alcohol on a boat. He was put on probation for two years but received his first of the three felony DUIs one year into the probation, according to court records.
Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh said his office couldn't comment on McNutt's current charges. The charges caught the attention of the nationally syndicated news program "Inside Edition," which requested a camera in the courtroom at an earlier hearing, but it was denied.
"While I won't comment on the case specifically, I can tell you that we always consider a person's criminal history, as well as many other factors, in evaluating an appropriate resolution and sentencing recommendation," McHugh emailed The Press.
According to the website felonydui.org, Idaho is one of 37 states with a felony DUI statute. The maximum fine is $5,000, five year license suspension and 10 years in prison. In some states, a felony DUI isn't achieved until the fourth offense.
Kootenai County judges contacted by The Press said the paramount issue when sentencing a perpetrator for crimes is protection of society, as outlined by the Supreme Court. Other factors to consider are deterring repeat offenses by the defendant or others, punishment and rehabilitation.
Although each individual case is unique, several judges said rehabilitation for non-violent, addiction-related offenses is an ideal way to protect society.
Locking violators away for long periods of time doesn't get to the core of addiction the way rehabbing in society can, they said.
"I think the only way you can protect society from alcoholics or addicts is to rehabilitate them," said John Mitchell, 1st District judge. "I think the only way you can do that with crimes of addiction is to change their behavior. They need treatment."
In 2012, 649 DUI arrests occurred in Kootenai County, according to Kootenai County Sheriff's Office records. So far in 2013, 197 DUI arrests have been made.
Scot Nass, a Coeur d'Alene attorney who acts as judge pro tem for the county's DUI court, agreed. The court has focused on rehabilitating second offense or excessive DUI offenders (above .2 BAC) since 2001.
Identities of participants is confidential, but the year-long court program has successfully graduated 329 of 426 registrants, according to court records. Fifty-one people failed, while 42 are signed up now. Four left voluntarily. Around 2007, a study of its graduates found 87 percent hadn't re-offended five years after graduation.
Gibler didn't return a message from the Press.
"One thing I've learned after 28 years, unless you've walked in their shoes a mile, don't be critical. Every case is different," said Magistrate Judge Eugene Marano, who agreed with Mitchell and Nass that a judge considers a number of factors on each case when determining a sentence. "I've been judging for 28 years, and every individual is different and every case is judged differently, as well they should be."