Sobering

Spent time today working on one of the most heart wrenching stories I’ve done — seeing both sides of a drunk-driving fatality and the torment this bad decision can create.

Notably, driver Caleb Pruitt wasn’t just drunk. A police report indicated he was “greatly impaired” by marijuana too.

In court, he told the family of Angie Burke he did “everything within his power in those last few seconds to avoid” hitting her. Clearly, he needed to do more. He needed to not have smoked pot at some point, split a bottle of wine with his girlfiend over dinner, then gotten behind the wheel of a Subaru. He needed to not have sped down Barbur Boulevard at an estimated 75 miles an hour.

He also said in court, he never imagined he’d be on this end of the spectrum.

Never imagined?

In 2005, he did the same thing, only he didn’t kill anyone that time.

He was picked up for a DUII, and took a diversion class to avoid a misdemeanor conviction on his record. Yes, the kind of diversion class that force feeds you horrific images of fatal crashes caused by drunk drivers. Like visual shock therapy. The kind of class in which emergency room nurses do their best to help you imagine what could happen if you continue down the path of putting lives at risk.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Jeff Lowes tells me it’s standard practice in Oregon to offer drunk drivers that diversion class on their first offense, and that usually they spend at least a couple hours in jail after the arrest. It depends on how many other scofflaws are in their company.

The second time around, the conviction goes on their record and they serve either 80 hours of community service or two days in jail, and pay a $1000 fine. If you have two prior convictions within the last 10 years, and you are convicted of your third, that conviction goes down as a felony.

None of us is perfect.

We are human in our imperfections.

I pray that we can all learn something from Caleb Pruitt’s mistakes.

As Judge Michael McShane closed out the sentencing hearing for Pruitt, sending him to prison for five years, he noted the next item on his morning docket — a line of drunk drivers outside the courtroom, 18 of them, waiting to plead guilty. He told Pruitt he planned on keeping the smiling photos of Angie Burke on display in his courtroom for those drunk drivers to see.

Perhaps they’ll be quicker learners than Caleb Pruitt.

Fake Doctor Arrest

This is one of those days when I have so much more to report than the minute-30 I’m given within our local newscast.

My report:
http://www.katu.com/news/local/124465354.html

I watched today as Lucas Ebert, just 21 years old, faced a judge on charges of theft and criminal mistreatment. He’s accused of tricking a Beaverton woman into thinking he was plastic surgeon at OHSU who could do the gastric bypass surgery she’s desperately been wanting for years.

I watched as he tried to control the situation from the Inverness Jail. Sometimes defendants appear on video from the jail, as was the case today. He seemed keenly aware of the media presence in the room, and made it a priority to ask the judge, former U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut, to remove the pool camera there to record the proceeding.

That’s a moment in which, as a video journalist, your stomach turns. You kinda need that video to make a television news story happen. Luckily, in this case, Judge Immergut told him the unique circumstances that call for the removal of a camera didn’t seem to apply.

I noted with interest that the attorney Ebert retained was Russell Barnett, not present. See, Barnett was busy across the street in the Multnomah County Courthouse, defending Brian Cole against murder in the death of his wife, Mallory. A conversation he had with our reporter covering the Cole case confirmed his representation of Ebert, but Barnett refused to discuss finances. He also said, “There are some charges against clients like Mr. Ebert that you don’t accept a check for.”

It’s fascinating to go digging into someone’s recent past and discover their missteps.

As I talked with employees of the Carr Chevrolet in Beaverton, I learned the details of their encounter with this Luke Ebert. The sales manager, Scott Chauvet, tells me Ebert’s mother got hurt in the front of their store last year, an accident that broke her ankle. She wound up buying a car from them.

Chauvet says Ebert showed up a month ago, telling them his mom was back in the hospital after a bad car accident that broke the same ankle and she needed a new car. He says Ebert picked out a used car, a Cadillac SUV, and left saying he wanted to discuss it with his mom. Chauvet claims Ebert wanted to write one his own checks to the dealership and transfer money from her account to his.

The dealership’s efforts to verify this information Ebert’s mother fell through. They eventually learned from the bank the account didn’t exist. The original check was for $39,000. Chauvet says Ebert showed up with another check, this time from his mother’s bank account bearing her signature. He wrote that check for $42,000 — this time including as part of the deal an extended warranty for the SUV.

Chauvet says they sent a sales person to the address, who had Lucas Ebert on the phone as he drove to the house, with Ebert telling him was at his job as a surgical tech assisting with operations.

As the sales associate pulled up to the house, Chauvet says Lucas pulled past him and didn’t see him.

When they finally got ahold of his mother, at her job, she was shocked to learn what her son had pulled off. She was in good health, not in the hospital. When she’d kicked her son out of her house the week before, she told Carr Chevrolet, she’s given him a signed check to pay for a week’s worth of motel rent.

According to Chauvet, Ebert told the dealership’s sales associates he was in school to become a doctor, and was assisting with cosmetic surgeries. Also that he was frequenting strip bars. If that’s true, one has to wonder what sort of “services” he was offering strippers?

Appropriate, I suppose, that one of Ebert’s favorite TV shows according to his Facebook page is “Nip and Tuck.”