Judge ups ante on drunk driver

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COEUR d’ALENE — A Coeur d’Alene judge upstaged attorneys Tuesday by sentencing a woman to five years in prison for causing a wreck while she was drunk that almost killed a motorcyclist.

Maliena Dawn Sheffield, 39, will serve at least 2½ years in prison as part of a five-year indeterminate sentence for a June 5, 2018, crash on the Fourth Street ramp of Interstate 90. Sheffield’s vehicle struck a motorcycle from behind, vaulting the driver into the air and pushing the Harley Davidson with her car for almost 300 feet, according to a police report.

Attorneys asked First District Judge John Mitchell to place Sheffield on probation — or to retain jurisdiction, which would allow her to take part in a prison rehabilitation program — but the judge said both recommendations would send the wrong message to the public.

Sheffield’s two prior DUIs, and her insistence on driving recklessly even after she knew she had too much to drink, played a role in his decision, the judge said.

“If the public knew you could in Kootenai County after two DUIs, and a (BAC) of .231, speed in a construction zone, pass motorcycles, cause a horrible wreck, refuse to render aid or stick around, hide from law enforcement, lie to law enforcement and still get probation, what deterrence am I providing?” Mitchell said. “I would be sending a message to anyone … all they are going to get is probation … (and) I don’t want to live in that world.”

Sheffield, who pleaded guilty to one felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in an injury or a death, and DUI, apologized to the court and the victim for her actions. She said the wreck prompted her to stop drinking.

Police said Sheffield was driving west on I-90 around 10 p.m. in a Honda CRV at speeds around 80 mph when she passed a motorcycle in a construction zone near the Fourth Street off ramp. As Sheffield entered the ramp at approximately 80 mph, she struck another motorcycle in front of her, a 2004 Harley Sportster. The Harley’s driver, Brandon Reeb, was thrown from the motorcycle.

“When I hit the ground, I tumbled multiple times and then slid to a stop,” Reeb wrote in a statement.

The motorcycle continued to tumble and the Honda pushed it 300 feet farther up the ramp.

Police observed blue and red clothing marks on the pavement, matching the colors of Reeb’s garments. Reeb suffered a broken wrist and road rash down his back and sides, both arms and legs and the tops of his toes, and pulled muscles in both his knees, his back arms and hands.

Reeb and a witness said Sheffield stopped briefly to check on Reeb and then drove away, spinning her tires and running a stop light.

Sheffield’s attorney, Craig Zanetti, asked that his client be placed on probation, while deputy prosecutor Molly Nivison asked the judge to retain jurisdiction, but Mitchell said neither sentence reflected the grievous nature of the crime.

“I wish there was a different outcome, but I can’t get there,” the judge said. “I have tried.”

Mitchell also fined Sheffield $2,202 for her third DUI and $5,000 for the felony.

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