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Veteran faces 12th drunken driving charge

Schneider (click for larger version)
March 19, 2013 | 05:54 PM
ELKHORN — A U.S. Air Force veteran was arrested in Bloomfield for drunken driving in August, and prosecutors say he has 11 prior convictions in three different states.

Fred J. Schneider, 70, of Zion, Ill., faces a felony charge of 12th-offense drunken driving. If convicted, he faces up to 7 1/2 years imprisonment and five years of extended supervision.

He pleaded not guilty to the charge Sept. 12, and was set for a jury trial in February.

However, Schneider missed a February court hearing and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Schneider was arrested on Aug. 3 at PFI Fashions, which is north of Genoa City on County Highway B. According to police reports, Schneider stopped at the business to use the restroom, and employees called the police because they suspected Schneider was drunk and feared he would hurt someone if he continued to drive.

When Genoa City Sgt. Mike Sireno arrived, Schneider told him he believed he was in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., which is about 30 miles east of Genoa City, according to police reports.

After Schneider's arrest, Judge John Race set a $10,000 bond for his release, which included a $5,000 cash component. At that time, Schneider was charged with his ninth drunken driving offense.

Prosecutors later discovered three additional out-of-state convictions and amended the charge in January. Schneider posted a $5,000 cash bond on December 20 and was released. According to online court records, Schneider changed his address with the court but didn't appear before a judge again.

Before Schneider posted bond, his attorney, Melissa Nepomiachi, filed a motion to reduce his bond. In the motion, Nepomiachi wrote that Schneider is a veteran and is receiving treatment four days a week at a VA hospital.

Schneider's 11 prior convictions are for offenses that occurred March 1, 1991; May 8, 1991; Sept. 14, 1994; Oct. 21, 1994; Jan. 24, 1996; Feb. 4, 1997; Feb. 4, 1998; March 26, 1999; April 2, 1999; Nov. 5, 2000 and March 3, 2001. Four of the prior convictions were for offenses that occurred in Wisconsin, two are from Illinois and five are from Minnesota.

According to police reports:

Police were called to PFI Fashions after receiving a report of an intoxicated male who had driven to the business.

When Schneider entered the business, he wasn't wearing a shirt and asked to use the restroom.

Two employees escorted him to the restroom, and when Schneider was in the restroom one of the employees called the Genoa City and Bloomfield police.

While waiting for police, a manager distracted Schneider by showing him shirts and the manager gave Schneider a shirt to wear.

Schneider attempted to pay for the shirt with playing cards he had in his wallet.

When police arrived he became agitated by their questions. He told police that his girlfriend and driven him to PFI Fashions, and she had left in a taxi. However, an employee saw Schneider pull up to the store and exit the vehicle by himself.

Schneider kept moving his head during the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is a field test for intoxication. During the test, the driver must follow a pen with his or her eyes without moving his or her head.

When asked not to move his head, Schneider yelled at the officer and stumbled backwards. He then told the officer he wouldn't take any more tests. Schneider was then arrested.

The first record check police ran showed that Schneider had six prior drunken driving convictions. At the Walworth County jail, another OWI was discovered on his record.

By the time charges were filed, law enforcement found one more drunken driving conviction and he was charged with his ninth-offense. In January, prosecutors amended the charge to 12th offense drunken driving after three additional convictions were discovered.


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