UPDATED: Davis gets 17 months for high-speed DUI crash with children

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader
Posted 8/9/14

UPDATED 4:30 p.m. Aug. 12

A Port Townsend man has been sentenced to 17 months in prison after crashing his vehicle into a tree at nearly 80 mph while driving his 11-year-old daughter and her …

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UPDATED: Davis gets 17 months for high-speed DUI crash with children

Posted

UPDATED 4:30 p.m. Aug. 12

A Port Townsend man has been sentenced to 17 months in prison after crashing his vehicle into a tree at nearly 80 mph while driving his 11-year-old daughter and her friend to an after school activity on a March afternoon this year.

Paul D. Davis, 41, pleaded guilty Friday morning, Aug. 8, in Jefferson County Superior Court to two counts of vehicular assault. A third charge of driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle was dismissed as part of his plea deal.

“You made a choice to go pick up these two children,” Judge Keith Harper said so Davis, whose blood alcohol content after the crash measured 0.34, more than four times the legal limit. “I am not sure how three people walked away from this, how no one died.”

All three were airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle following the 3:51 p.m. March 13 crash along Port Townsend's Umatilla Avenue, which carries a posted speed limit of 25 mph. All have since recovered from their injuries, which included Davis' broken leg, his daughter's broken face and leg bones, and her friend's broken ribs and punctured lung.

“It was only by God's will that everyone survived in a car going 80 miles per hour,” said Jasmine Teagarden, the mother of Davis' daughter's friend, during Davis' sentencing Friday. “I am grateful that Paul plead guilty today and took responsibility for his actions.”

Davis, an owner of The Public House Grill & Ales in downtown Port Townsend, also received 18 months of community custody and owes $700 in legal fees. His restitution hearing is set for Jan. 30, 2015.

LETTERS

In their letters to the court, Davis and his wife Jenny acknowledged that life had become particularly stressful as greater restaurant management responsibilities had fallen on their shoulders.

“With the death of Paul's mother and working non-stop, the stress had really caught up to Paul,” Jenny Davis wrote, adding that days prior to the crash she had purchased health insurance for the family “primarily so that Paul could seek help for what I thought was exhaustion and depression.”

“It is very humbling and not easy for me to acknowledge I was sick, depressed, and angry having been in a leadership position,” Paul Davis wrote in his letter, which he read aloud in court. “I was providing jobs, managing a business, handling challenging situations, contributing to the community and local charities, while being a solid husband and father. Not one person can look at me the same way as they once had.”

Since the crash, Davis has sought treatment, counseling and attended daily Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

“For starters, I am sick,” he wrote. “I am learning to accept this and am willing to change. Going to counseling and AA meetings, along with the support of family and friends, I have hope for the future.”

THE HIGH END

Davis received the high end of a standard range sentence of 13-17 months in prison, partly because of a DUI arrest in October 2012 in Kitsap County. That charge was later reduced to negligent driving in a plea bargain.

“He didn't understand how bad his situation was,” defense attorney Noah Harrison said in court Aug. 8 regarding Davis' prior conviction. “He didn't recognize it. And it's really unfortunate this had to happen for him to realize it.”

Judge Harper said: “That should have been taken seriously and it was not.”

Harper and Prosecutor Scott Rosekrans agreed the fact that this crash occurred on a weekday afternoon is serious because of increased potential for harm to the public.

“Mr. Davis was highly intoxicated,” Rosekrans said. “He knew, he had to have known he had too much to drink. I've seen a lot of crashes and this was a pretty egregious and impressive crash. This was not a mistake. This was a conscious decision.”

Rosekrans said his office does not allow DUI cases to be plead down to a lesser charge, citing Davis' case as an example of how bad the outcome of driving under influence of alcohol can be.

Both Davis' wife and daughter made pleas for a sentence on the low end.

“My dad is a good man,” his 11-year-old daughter wrote in a letter to the court. “If he has to go somewhere, please, I don't want it to be for a long time. I will miss him very much. My dad is really really sorry. I love my dad.”

Davis' wife Jenny acknowledged the family's medical bills and the challenge of making ends meet without Davis able to contribute.

“I believe Paul can better pay his debt to society, and our family, by doing community service and by having the opportunity of supporting his family financially,” she wrote in her letter. “Serving a long sentence would jeopardize the outcome of our business and the security of [our daughter's] future and well being.”

Standing in front of Judge Harper, she said, “I hope we can all move forward.”

(The first version of this story appeared Aug. 9 on ptleader.com)

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