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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Serial DUI Offender Off the Streets for Three Years

4/2/2010  3:25:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

Serial DUI Offender Off the Streets for Three Years

The Seattle City Attorney’s office on Thursday won exceptionally stiff sentences for serial DUI offender Dwight David Benson, ensuring that the 61-year-old Navy veteran will serve three full years in jail.

"My heart goes out to Mr. Benson and his family, yet we really have an obligation to protect the citizens of Seattle," City Attorney Peter S. Holmes said after Seattle Municipal Court Judges Ron Mamiya and Edsonya Charles handed down the sentences arising from two trials earlier this year.

Despite Benson's stated desire for treatment for alcoholism and post-traumatic stress disorder and his declaration to the court Thursday afternoon that he would "never drink and drive again," Judge Charles told him: "You’ve never availed yourself of these treatments until now. It is miraculous you haven’t hurt someone."

"It is clear to this court," Charles continued, "that the only way to protect society is for you to be incarcerated." She granted Assistant City Attorney Jason C. Logan’s request that Benson serve back-to-back years for his convictions on Driving Under the Influence and Driving While License Suspended in the 2nd Degree.

Logan emphasized to the court that Benson's driving, more than drinking, was the issue. "Fourteen times since 1984 he was convicted of driving without a license," with no alcohol involved. "As sad as it is, if Mr. Benson wants to sit in his apartment and drink himself to death, that's his business," Logan said. "But once he gets behind the wheel of a car, it’s a public safety issue."

In the other case at issue Thursday – Benson’s conviction on Driving Under the Influence, Hit and Run – Unattended, and Driving While License Suspended in the 2nd Degree – Judge Mamiya told the defendant he found it “hard to overlook” 11 DUI convictions and six other DUIs that had been reduced to lesser charges. While Mamiya, as Judge Charles had earlier, expressed gratitude for Benson’s 30 years of Navy service, including multiple tours of Vietnam, he said “the jury was well-justified in finding you guilty.” The judge sentenced Benson to one full year in jail for the DUI conviction but suspended sentence on the other two counts.

As Assistant City Attorney Lorna Staten Sylvester argued in a sentencing memorandum to Judge Mamiya, “Not only does he (Benson) ignore the fact that he does not have a license, but he also continues to drive after drinking. He likely has the most convictions for alcohol-related driving offenses that this court will ever see.”

In noting the mandatory minimum term that Benson had to receive under the law, defense attorney Ted Barr asked for a blend of treatment and incarceration. Otherwise, Benson “will come out in the community another homeless vet and is that what we need,” he asked. Barr said Benson was likely to lose his home, his benefits and have no access to treatment if he were sentenced to the max.

City Attorney's Office


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