Friday, February 6, 2009

Here's something you don't find in a California DUI case

California DUI defense lawyers say here's something.

After fleeing on land and by sea from two drunken-driving crashes that injured others last year, a Lahaina man was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for his fourth and fifth DUI convictions.

James Stiendt, 47, who is also known as Bryan Lammerman, said he was on a "wild rampage" when the collisions occurred 34 days apart on Honoapiilani Highway.

"I don't know why," he said in court last week. "I can't believe I got into a vehicle and drove."

But 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said he didn't know why Stiendt would be surprised, given his criminal record dating to 1979. He has been incarcerated for convictions in Hawaii, Oregon and California and has a pending warrant in connection with a sexual assault case in Oregon.

"You have been committing crimes for the last 30 years," Bissen told Stiendt. "How can you stand there with a straight face and say you're surprised?

"The only thing that's surprising about any of this is that you have not killed someone. That is what you should be most thankful for."

Stiendt was arrested June 9 after he rear-ended a car while heading toward Lahaina near Milepost 12 in the area known as Lone Pine north of the pali. Although the other driver and several passengers were injured in the 9:20 p.m. crash, Stiendt continued driving for seven miles and was seen weaving into oncoming traffic before police stopped him.

On July 13, Stiendt was arrested again after he lost control of his 1994 Jeep Cherokee while driving toward Lahaina near the Ukumehame firing range at 6:17 p.m. The vehicle slammed into the mountainside, then crossed a double-solid line into the Kihei-bound lane, where it crashed into a Ford Ranger pickup truck, said Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Martin.

Despite being asked to remain at the crash scene, Stiendt ran from the Jeep and swam out to sea. Police said he was swimming south along the highway about one-fourth mile from the collision site before he returned to shore and was arrested.

Officers described Stiendt as belligerent and highly intoxicated, falling to the ground at one point.

Makawao resident Kelly Baldwin, who was in the truck with her husband, William, and their 19-year-old daughter, said Stiendt "almost killed my whole family in one afternoon."

She said her daughter lost two front teeth in the impact along with other injuries. William Baldwin was unable to work for six weeks because of back injuries, his wife said, and the truck was destroyed.

Because Stiendt didn't have insurance, "we're not able to recoup any of our losses, even though the injuries linger on," Kelly Baldwin said in court. "It's just loss after loss after loss.

"The only reason we survived the collision is because we were all wearing our seat belts."

Martin argued for the 10-year prison term, asking that Stiendt be sentenced to consecutive five-year prison terms for both crashes.

After his three prior DUI convictions, Stiendt was ordered to participate in rehabilitation programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Martin said.

He said the efforts were "to no avail," with Stiendt continuing to drink and drive.

"He continues to place the people of this community at risk of death or injury, and that absolutely cannot be tolerated for the protection of the community," Martin said.

Deputy Public Defenders Shelly Miyashiro and William "Pili" McGrath argued for a five-year prison term for Stiendt.

"He does take full responsibility for his actions and also the consequences," Miyashiro said.

Stiendt had pleaded no contest to two counts each of felony habitual DUI, driving while his license was revoked for DUI, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious injury, reckless driving and having no insurance, as well as first-degree negligent injury, resisting an order to stop a motor vehicle and inattention to driving.

Turning to the Baldwins in court Friday, he said: "You have my deepest, heartfelt apology. I didn't mean to get in a vehicle and drive. I was drunk when I got into that vehicle. I wasn't thinking clearly."

Stiendt asked the judge to sentence him to "the least amount of time possible," saying he has a bachelor's degree and wanted to work toward becoming a certified substance abuse counselor.

"I have the knowledge," he said.

Bissen ordered a permanent revocation of Stiendt's driver's license. He was ordered to pay $4,410 in restitution and $5,301 in fines and fees.

Martin said he would recommend to the Hawaii Paroling Authority that Stiendt serve the full 10-year prison term without being paroled.

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