Man heads to jail after 15th DWI
By PEGGY WRIGHT
July 1, 2009
An East Rutherford man whose driver's license has been suspended 78 times admitted Tuesday to his 15th drunken-driving offense, saying he was plastered on beer in April when he crashed head-on in Morris Township into a vehicle carrying a father and his young daughter.
Shaun P. Campbell, a 40-year-old carpenter, pleaded guilty in state Superior Court, Morristown, to one count of assault by auto on April 23 and to the motor vehicle offenses of drunken driving and driving while on the revoked list. That day, he crashed the SUV he was driving into a Ford pickup driven by Harold A. Bivins Jr., 48, of Chatham Township. His 4-year-old daughter, Hannah Bivins, was a passenger.
Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Brian DiGiacomo has recommended that Campbell receive the maximum sentence of 18 months in prison for the assault by auto, and consecutive 180-day terms on the drunken-driving and revoked license charges. He also recommended to Judge Salem Vincent Ahto that Campbell receive an extra 90-day term as an enhanced penalty on the license revocation offense.
Campbell, who politely answered questions posed by the judge and defense lawyer John Paul Velez, acknowledged his blood-alcohol level on April 23 was .288 percent, or more than triple the .08 percent level at which a driver is deemed intoxicated in New Jersey. Ahto asked Campbell what he drank.
"Beer. Quite a bit. Enough to not know what was going on," Campbell replied.
Though his lack of a valid license hasn't deterred him, he also will lose his driving privileges for at least another 10 years. Velez said that, with the revocations Campbell has banked, he won't be driving "for a very long time." He also faces about $3,000 in penalties. Velez said he would argue at sentencing for a shorter prison sentence.
Authorities said Campbell's license has been suspended 78 times over the past 22 years, including 14 previous times for DWI. Some of the revocations were for failure to appear in court or pay fines. He still has outstanding DWI charges in Pequannock and Wayne, which the judge said he would like to see resolved by the time Campbell is sentenced in August.
DiGiacomo said the state would like to see consecutive terms behind bars for the outstanding DWIs.
"We won't agree to any free DWIs, so to speak," he said.
Injuries not severe
Bivins suffered an injured finger and his daughter sustained an abrasion on her chest from her seat belt after the crash. Campbell fled afterward, running into Loantaka Park. Authorities quickly apprehended him.
Campbell said he is willing to pay for any damage to the Bivins' pickup that insurance didn't cover. "I'm not trying to hide if I caused damage," he said.
He was not able to post $50,000 bail after his arrest to be freed from the Morris County jail. The judge revoked his bail after his plea so he will remain in jail until sentencing.
The number of times Campbell flouted motor vehicle laws recently prompted state Senate President Richard J. Codey to propose criminalizing some repeat drunken-driving offenses. He has filed a package of bills in the Legislature, including one that would make it a fourth-degree crime to drive under the influence while already on the suspended list for a DWI conviction. Codey's proposals also call for increased penalties for repeat DWI offenders who have a blood-alcohol content of .20 percent and higher and for those who lend cars to anyone whose license was suspended for a DWI.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi said his office was adamant that it would seek the maximum penalties for Campbell.
A handcuffed Shaun P. Campbell is escorted into a Morristown courtroom Tuesday; he pleaded guilty to assault by auto, drunken driving and driving while on the revoked list because of 14 previous DWI convictions and numerous other motor vehicle violations.
(STAFF PHOTO: DAWN BENKO)
"This defendant has pled guilty to the maximum time allowed under the law. We need to ensure that these cases are handled sternly to ensure, as best as possible, the safety of the community from the dangers of drinking and driving," Bianchi said.
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