Round Lake man sentenced for felony DWI
WORTHINGTON -- In one of the two longest sentences handed out in Nobles County for felony DWI, a Round Lake drunk driver who rolled a vehicle while accompanied by his 7-year-old child was sentenced to 54 months in a Minnesota correctional facilit...
WORTHINGTON -- In one of the two longest sentences handed out in Nobles County for felony DWI, a Round Lake drunk driver who rolled a vehicle while accompanied by his 7-year-old child was sentenced to 54 months in a Minnesota correctional facility Wednesday.
Jason Alan Ling, 36, was found to have a blood alcohol concentration level of more than .20 after rolling the vehicle in October 2006. An almost-empty bottle of vodka was found at the scene, and when asked by authorities to do field sobriety tests, he said, "Look, I can save you some time. I'm drunk and not going to pass the test."
He pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree driving while impaired in February and appeared before Judge Jeffrey Flynn for sentencing Wednesday.
Because of his criminal history -- three previous DWI convictions since 2000 and a sexual assault conviction -- the state recommended the presumptive sentence. Nobles County Assistant Attorney Bill Lemon pointed out to the judge that drinking vodka and blowing a BAC of more than .20 in the afternoon demonstrated a major drinking problem.
"The defendant is on a course to kill someone," he added.
Ling's daughter received bumps and bruises during the rollover, but was not seriously hurt. During a videotaped interview with a detective, which was shown during the sentencing hearing, she demonstrated how Ling had nodded off while driving down the road right before the accident.
The girl described the clear bottle he was drinking from during the drive, which matched the bottle of vodka found at the scene.
"He buys it all the time," she said.
When asked if she knew what it was Ling was drinking, she said, "Alcohol, maybe?"
Defense attorney Terry Vajgrt asked the judge to consider a lower sentence for Ling.
"Without question, he is an alcoholic," Vajgrt said. "One does not buy a bottle and drink it in a parking lot if they aren't. But he also has a very clear history of depression."
Ling had indicated to Vajgrt he had not been taking his anti-depressants in the weeks and months before the accident. But at the scene of the crash in October, Ling reportedly told authorities he had taken his pills before bringing his daughter to her school play.
Vajgrt said the public interest and interest of the family would be better served if Ling received a sentence of 12 months in a county jail and a full chemical dependency assessment, pointing out his history of supporting his children and holding a job.
Ling had two people testify on his behalf -- the pastor and a congregation member of his church, both of whom said Ling has the full support of the church in fighting his addictions. Both said the support would come in the form of the congregation praying for Ling, along with some possible financial help. They also both admitted they weren't aware of Ling's alcohol addiction until after the accident.
Ling also had a chance to speak before the judge handed down the final sentence. He apologized for his actions and said he was thankful his daughter was not hurt in the crash.
"I have a very large problem with alcoholism," he admitted, but said he was trying to take steps to work it out.
After leaving the Air Force, he said, he just wanted to raise a family. He described himself as "taking on responsibility in life and becoming a member of the community.
"I'm asking you -- could you help me out?" he implored the judge. "I'd like to try to do the right thing for my family."
Flynn said he found no substantial grounds to depart from the sentencing guidelines -- that there were several reasons to aggravate the disposition.
"I've always said there are no atheists in a foxhole," Flynn said. "I'm hearing a lot of that today."
He commented that people were finally concerned about Ling's health and well-being, but questioned where they were six months ago.
"When you started drinking again, it should have been obvious to even the most uninformed," Flynn said. "It was to your daughter. She knew it -- everyone else had to know it, too."
Flynn then explained Ling was going to get long-term help with his addiction, because he was going to prison and would not be eligible for release unless he has successfully completed a chemical dependency program.
"When I said you were the poster boy for felony DWI, you can believe I meant it," Flynn said. "You have shown unforgivable behavior."
Flynn acknowledged the letters of support for Ling written by friends and family, but said he could also imagine letters from friends and family of a person who had to be buried because of someone like Ling.
"I may seem cold and hard to you ..." Flynn said, explaining he sees people like Ling all the time. "My job is to keep you away from the public until you finally stop drinking."
Ling will serve 36 months in prison and 18 on supervised release, but if he fails to complete the chemical dependency program, he may serve the entire term. He was given credit for the 165 days served in the county jail.
Because he was on probation in Freeborn County for a DWI, he may end up serving a year in its county jail consecutive to the felony sentence.