Manager of sober living facility sentenced for 7th OWI offense

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Andrea Anderson | June 9, 2016

ELKHORN—A former manager of a sober living facility told Walworth County Judge James Carlson he takes responsibility for his choice to drink and drive and considers it a “blessing” that he was picked up on a felony bail jumping charge.

“That day, I chose to drink and drive, and I could have really hurt somebody, and I'm truly sorry,” John McBean said in court Wednesday. “…I believe things happen for a reason, and I needed to stop drinking. I've not only hurt myself financially. I've lost the trust of my family, my fiancé and my friends. I'm very ashamed and embarrassed.”

McBean, 51, was sentenced to four years in prison and eight years of extended supervision on felony charges of seventh-offense drunken driving and felony bail jumping.

McBean originally was charged with 10th-offense drunken driving after being arrested July 25 after leaving the New Life Lodge, a sober living facility in the town of Geneva where he was a manager at the time.

Town of Geneva police arrested him after a complaint made by two men claiming McBean threatened them at the facility. The two told McBean he couldn't use a facility vehicle because he was intoxicated, according to authorities and a criminal complaint.

The town of Geneva man was arrested again after admitting to police Sept. 28 that he drank a pint of whiskey, which was a violation of his bond on the earlier arrest, according to court documents.

Since the start of the case, defense attorney Frank Lettenberger and prosecutor Diane Donohoo have debated the number of prior drunken driving offenses McBean has on his record in Wisconsin and Illinois.

The judge determined McBean had six prior offenses. Donohoo said Wednesday there are nine prior drunken driving offenses but some cannot be counted because of changes in the law.

A presentence investigation suggested three to four years in prison and three years of extended supervision on the drunken driving and bail jumping charges, Carlson said.

Donohoo asked Carlson to impose five years in prison and five years of extended supervision on the drunken driving charge with an additional three to four years of extended supervision for the bail jumping charge.

“I recognize the argument that he is an alcoholic, it's a disease, he can't help himself, he has this ugly demon taking control of him,” Donohoo said. “To a certain extent I understand the mitigation of alcoholism as a disease, but I don't understand drinking and driving as a disease. Drinking and driving is a choice.”

Lettenberger said McBean has lived a sober life for more than 10 years, has a family history of alcoholism and has fought his addiction since a young age when he “felt like an outsider” when his mom remarried after divorcing his alcoholic father.

After being sober for numerous years, McBean began drinking after being diagnosed with cancer shortly before the July 2015 incident.

“John is a flawed human being,” Lettenberger said. “I guess in many ways we're all flawed human beings. He maintained a long period of sobriety, so much so he was trying to help others and move on to that next state. His world was turned upside down by a disease I think scared him, that pushed him into a situation where he went back to old ways and triggers were set off.”

Lettenberger said the presentence investigation writer “hit (the recommendation) right on the head.”

Carlson said the imposed sentence is a “considerable” sentence “that should give the public plenty of protection."

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