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7 months in prison for joyrider

Posted: March 16, 2012 - 12:13am

A Juneau man was sentenced to serve a combined seven months in prison Thursday for stealing a car, driving it while drunk then crashing it in a ditch last summer.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez also sentenced Shelton H. Gleaton, 29, to four years of probation after his release and to pay about $18,000 in restitution for the damaged stolen vehicle, per the state’s request.

“The sentence that’s requested by the state is not a light sentence,” Menendez told Gleaton. “It’s a serious sentence and the state’s offered that because it’s a serious offense.”

District Attorney David Brower alleged Gleaton stole a 2006 Toyota Tacoma from the Echo Cove parking lot on July 31, 2011. The owner of the vehicle told police he had left the keys in the ignition to play music, and when he returned from the beach, it was gone, according to an affidavit.

Police were contacted around 4:30 a.m. the next morning when a woman called saying she just picked up a man involved in a single vehicle wreck near Eagle Beach.

“(A woman) had been out the road and was driving back in and found Mr. Gleaton partially naked in the middle of the road with injuries and the vehicle on the side of the road on its roof, and she brought him (to) the Troopers station on Sherwood Lane,” Brower told the judge.

Brower said Gleaton’s blood alcohol content level was .215, which is about two to three times the legal driving limit.

Gleaton was originally indicted in October by a grand jury on one count of first-degree vehicle theft, a felony. The case went to trial for one day in February, but the parties reached a settlement before the proceedings ended.

The felony charge was reduced to a misdemeanor for attempted first-degree vehicle theft. Gleaton also agreed to plead guilty to driving while under the influence, a misdemeanor.

Brower said in court the settlement was reached because there were “issues in some of the reports that we received.”

Gleaton’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Grace Lee told the judge there was a police report written by an officer that said Gleaton admitted to driving the car, he was the only person in the car and there was no one else driving the car.

“I listened to the audio and Mr. Gleaton did not say any of those things,” Lee said. “... Basically all he was saying was ‘Uhhhh yeah uhhhh.’ That’s what he was saying. And so I think it would have been very difficult for the state to rely on just what was essentially moaning for Mr. Gleaton as an admission to driving the car.”

That said, Lee noted, Gleaton took the offer because he wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He did not dispute any of the restitution amounts.

“He realizes the seriousness of this incident, and he realizes that the state has given him a break by reducing this to a misdemeanor and he wants to take responsibility for his actions,” Lee said.

Brower asked the judge to impose the maximum punishment for each of the two charges — 12 months with six months suspended for the attempted vehicle theft charge, and 12 months with 11 months suspended for driving under the influence. That’s a combined seven months of jail time to serve with an additional 16 months that can be imposed later if Gleaton re-offends.

The judge agreed and imposed that sentence. Menendez said while there may have been issues with the case, there is no factual dispute over whether Gleaton was driving the vehicle.

Menendez said he was troubled by the circumstances of the crime, especially in light of Gleaton’s criminal history. Gleaton, a convicted felon, was convicted of reckless endangerment and criminal mischief in 2007; disorderly conduct in 2006; fourth-degree criminal mischief in 2005; fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance in 2005; disorderly conduct and resisting and interfering with arrest by force in 2003; and driving without a valid operator’s license in 2001, court records show.

“You were convicted of a felony, put on probation and (had a) probation officer and despite that circumstance, you still go out and re-offend,” he said.

Menendez said Gleaton was lucky he didn’t injure someone in the incident.

“You drank, you drove, and there was an accident,” he said. “But for the grace of circumstance, somebody wasn’t killed or badly injured.”

Menendez ordered Gleaton to contact the Juneau Alcohol Safety Action Program for alcohol abuse screening, and to complete treatment if it’s recommended. His license will also be suspended for 90 days after his release and he will have to use an ignition interlock device on his car for six months. He was also fined $3,000 with half that amount suspended.

“I think you’re a danger to the public when you drink, as evidenced by this situation,” Menendez said. “I’m hoping that a period of incarceration will hit home to you the fact that you can’t do this anymore. If you come back to this court because there’s another violation, particularly one involving alcohol, the consequences are going to be severe.”

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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