ELKHORN — A man convicted of drunken driving for the 10th time has been ordered to prison by a judge who told him, “I have to take your keys.”
David Moran, 48, of Elkhorn, was sentenced March 14 to nine years behind bars, plus another six years of extended supervision during which he must remain sober.
It was the maximum possible combined 15-year sentence, although the judge could have added one more year in prison in exchange for less supervision.
Supporters described Moran as a kind-hearted military veteran who they believe drinks excessively to ease his symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome stemming from his military duties.
“He is not a bad person,” cousin Tony Ketchpaw said. “He just needs some help.”
Prosecutor Matthew Leusink, however, said the defendant has failed several times to stay in rehab, and on the day of his latest arrest was found weaving through traffic with a bottle of whiskey in the car.
Moran’s blood-alcohol content when police picked him up was .36 — more than four times the threshold for drunken driving — which Leusink called an “astonishing” level of intoxication.
“The public does need to be protected here,” Leusink added.
Police in Elkhorn arrested Moran after witnesses spotted him slam his vehicle into a parked car and then continue weaving down the street about 2:30 p.m. Aug. 18 on Walworth Street.
He had previously been convicted of operating while intoxicated nine times, starting in 1992 and most recently in 2007.
The Walworth County district attorney’s office recommended that Moran serve the maximum 10 years behind bars followed by four or five years of extended supervision.
Defense attorney Melissa Frost asked for a lighter sentence of six years in prison, again citing the defendant’s military service and telling the judge that her client accepts full responsibility for his actions.
“I don’t know what drunk David is like,” Frost said. “But I know that sober David is a pretty fantastic guy.”
Moran addressed the court briefly, offering an apology: “I’m truly sorry for everything I’ve done.”
The minimum sentence allowed by state law was four years in prison.
Walworth County Circuit Judge Kristine Drettwan thanked the defendant for his past military service, but she said being an alcoholic does not explain his repeated offenses of drunken driving.
The judge said it was “amazing” that Moran’s history of operating while intoxicated had not resulted in his death or someone else’s death.
“It has to stop. Your luck is going to run out,” she said. “You will kill someone.”
After serving nine years in prison, Moran will remain under extended supervision with the state for six more years, during which he must remain sober, stay out of taverns, stay employed, and will lose his driver’s license for three years.
Friends and family asked the court to show leniency, and then broke into tears when the judge announced her decision.
Steve Maize, a fellow military veteran, told the court that veterans health care programs were not effective, and that Moran needed help for a drinking problem that dates back to his days in the military.
“In the military,” Maize said, “the whole mentality was drink, drink, drink.”
Drettwan called it regrettable that veterans sometimes do not get the medical care they need.
The judge, however, said protecting the public was paramount in the case of a 10-time drunken driver. The sentence imposed on Moran, she said, should also serve as a deterrence to others in the community to show that repeated offenses of operating while intoxicated result in serious consequences.
Noting that in cases of drunken driving tragedies, the public’s reaction often is to ask why a defendant was allowed to keep driving at all.
“I have to take your keys,” she told Moran. “I can’t trust you with them.”