WENATCHEE - A former sheriff's deputy and DARE officer convicted of a drunken car wreck asked to report directly to jail Monday, rather than be sentenced to electronic home monitoring.
George Steven Barnett, 57, was sentenced to a 60-day confinement, with the first 30 days of it on home monitoring. Instead, the man convicted of crashing a car last year and badly injuring his girlfriend asked to begin his jail term immediately.
"I’d rather serve it in jail," Barnett told Superior Court Judge T.W. "Chip" Small, saying he’d have to pay to stay in a hotel if confined to home monitoring in Chelan County. Barnett had been living in Manson during his court case.
Barnett crashed his girlfriend Donna E. Kain’s car in a four-vehicle accident near Entiat on Dec. 31, 2009, while driving with a .08 blood alcohol level — the legal limit for a charge of driving under the influence. A jury convicted him of vehicular assault Nov. 17. Kain, then 61, suffered head injuries and was comatose for a time after the wreck.
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"She was hurt pretty badly, and I think she’s probably very lucky to be alive," Deputy Prosecutor Doug Shae said at the sentencing.
Three other people were injured in the crash. The jury found Barnett not guilty on a second vehicular assault charge involving injuries to another motorist; a third vehicular assault charge was dismissed before trial.
Barnett could have been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine on the single count. Under his sentence he is likely to be out of jail before Christmas, with credit for good behavior and five days already served.
Barnett, a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy for 23 years, was the department’s DARE officer in Eastmont schools from about 1988 to the mid-1990s, teaching students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. He was charged with drunken driving and convicted in Lincoln County in the early 2000s. At the time, he was already under departmental investigation for coming to work with the smell of alcohol on his breath.
Barnett was asked to resign from the sheriff’s office and left in November 2000, according to employment records.
Information about Barnett’s previous DUI was excluded from jury consideration, as was the fact that Barnett was driving without a license and with firearms in the car, according to court papers.
Barnett’s attorney, Chelan County Public Defender Keith Howard, had sought a minimum 30-day sentence. In an e-mail to the court, Kain also asked for the minimum sentence, and asked "to take some of the blame for this accident."
"We decided, the two of us, to go to Mill Bay," Kain wrote. "It was my car and the tires probably weren’t the best for the conditions."
But Barnett told Small the fault was his. "It was a nasty accident," he told the judge. "I take full responsibility. ... I have no problem with the jury’s verdict."
Small agreed to Barnett’s request for a revised sentence. The judge said the 60-day sentence, which the prosecution requested, is a fitting punishment. It includes about $1,300 in court costs and financial restitution to Kain, in an amount still to be determined.
"I think a high end would be unreasonable," Small said. "... I think 60 days is fine."
Barnett, who’s been free on bail since the week after the crash, reported to the Chelan County Regional Justice Center immediately after leaving the courtroom.