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Erratic driving complaint nets jail, huge fine

Reports about some erratic driving amounted to a stint behind bars and a hefty fine among those in court in Ponoka last week

Reports from the public about some erratic driving last month has amounted to a stint behind bars and a hefty fine for one man.

Michael Struhar, 32 years old from Leduc, pleaded guilty in Ponoka Provincial Court on Friday, Feb. 5 to one count each of possession of stolen property, dangerous driving, breach of probation and driving without insurance resulting from an incident on Saturday, Jan. 23. He received 60 days in jail - with credit for 21 days served - as well as a three month driving ban and fined more than $4,000.

Following up on reports of an erratic driver who looked intoxicated, police finally spotted a vehicle south on Highway 2 going upwards of 150 kilometres per hour then slowing down after realizing he was being followed. The vehicle then pulled an illegal u-turn near Morningside, heading back north then turning east into Ponoka. The jeep, which had been reported stolen from Calgary one week earlier, was found in the A&W parking lot.

A man fitting the description of the driver was spotted trying to get away through a nearby hotel and eventually arrested. Police noted he smelled of alcohol, would not follow commands and was very belligerent as well as, it turned out later, being out on probation at the time with conditions not to consume alcohol.

Judge B.D. Rosborough, in sentencing Struhar, stated that while it wasn’t the most serious case of dangerous driving, the pattern of nearly forcing vehicles off the road along with alcohol likely being the reason behind these actions; and there being no evidence he knew but should’ve known the vehicle was stolen was enough to place him behind bars.

Drunk drivers

A pair of Ponoka people pleaded guilty to having a blood alcohol level about 0.08, but received two different sentences.

Francine Lightfoot, 34, was taken off to jail for 30 days, banned from driving for two years and will serve 12 months probation after being stopped on Oct. 27, 2015. Police pulled over her van that went through a red light, and didn’t stop for police right away. Once the officer approached the van, an open liquor bottle was spotted on the dash and Lighfoot had a strong odour of liquor, was unable to speak in a full sentence and would later be found to have a level nearly three times the legal limit.

Meanwhile, 52-year-old Lorna Holmes was fined close to $1,500 and handed a one-year driving ban after being pulled over on Highway 2A south of town on Saturday, Jan. 2 around 11 p.m. for a burned out tail light. She was charged after the officer smelled alcohol on breath and was later found with a level of 0.11.

In both cases, the judge explained things could have been much worse with very significant penalties if someone had been hurt as a result of their driving intoxicated.

No avoiding fine

A 22 year old man from Red Deer, Devon Cooke, was sentenced to six months probation - with several conditions including abstaining from drugs and alcohol plus getting treatment and counseling - along with a $575 fine after pleading guilty to one count each of possession of a controlled substance and obstructing a police officer.

Cooke was arrested after police spotted a truck parked near the Stampede grounds and found the driver wanted on numerous warrants. Cooke, a passenger, was found, after search, to be in possession of a small quantity of meth hidden in a small flashlight he had. However, he attempted to evade the numerous warrants for his arrest by providing a false name, but police didn’t buy it and identified him through fingerprints.

Pair of assaults

Two people entered guilty pleas to separate assaults with each managing to avoid jail.

Hunter Saddleback, 18, was fined nearly $500 and sentenced to 12 months probation for turning a dispute at an area group home into a physical altercation back on Aug. 31, 2015. The judge stated that while it was on the minor end of the scale, Saddleback needs to learn from this and that he can’t physically force people to do what he wants them to do. Since he is now going to be treated as an adult, if he comes back again and again, he will end up in adult jail, according to the judge.

Meanwhile, 31-year-old Derek Sim of Ponoka received a fine of close to $900 for an incident on Dec. 6, 2015, when he got into a fight and caused some damage as well as some injuries to a man. Sim actually called police that afternoon to report his parents were being held hostage in a home, but this was later to be a result of Sim taking some illegal drugs which played tricks on him due to his paranoid schizophrenia. The judge reminded him to stay away from illegal drugs and stay in control or next time he would be headed to jail.