A 32-year-old Bellevue man began serving a one-year jail sentence on Monday after being sentenced for being drunk and causing a single-vehicle traffic accident in 2012 that seriously injured a passenger.
Jason Ray Calhoun, an electrician, a Bellevue volunteer fireman and a man who his attorney described as an “all-around good guy,” was taken into custody at the conclusion of a sentencing hearing in Blaine County 5th District Court.
Judge Robert Elgee also gave Calhoun a five-year suspended prison sentence and placed him on probation for four years.
Calhoun pleaded guilty in September to a felony charge of aggravated DUI.
The charge arose from an accident around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, when Calhoun crashed a 1994 GMC Sierra through a fence and into a stand of trees on Broadford Road near Star Bridge between Bellevue and Hailey. Both Calhoun and passenger Robert G. Symons, then 29 and also of Bellevue, suffered head injuries and were flown by emergency helicopter to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise.
Calhoun was released from the hospital the following day but Symons was transferred for treatment to the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City.
Calhoun was charged with the crime in April following an investigation by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office.
At sentencing Monday, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said Symons nearly died from his injuries.
“We’re really fortunate that this isn’t a manslaughter case,” Fredback said.
Fredback noted that at the time of the crash, Calhoun had a blood-alcohol level of .265, more than triple the legal driving limit in Idaho of .08.
“At that level, he had no business being near a car, let alone driving,” Fredback said. “This is one of those cases where one night of bad judgment can affect the rest of your life.”
Fredback argued that although Calhoun had no prior serious criminal record, he deserved to go to prison for the crime.
Defense attorney Douglas Werth argued for leniency, acknowledging that Calhoun made a mistake on the morning of the accident but telling the court that his client has otherwise been a responsible citizen, serving for the past several years as a volunteer firefighter, including helping to battle the Castle Rock Fire near Ketchum in 2007.
“He’s just an all-around good guy,” Werth said. “We’re asking as heartfelt and sincerely as we can [for you] not to send Jason to prison. If the court does impose a six-month jail sentence, that will be a significant sentence to not depreciate the seriousness of the crime.”
Elgee noted in pronouncing sentence that Calhoun’s high blood-alcohol level was “not a little bit over the limit.”
“You almost killed yourself and Mr. Symons,” the judge said. “There are some things that people do that deserve a prison sentence.”
Nonetheless, the judge ordered a year of jail instead of prison, but reminded the defendant that he will not hesitate to reinstate the prison sentence if Calhoun violates conditions of his probation once released from jail.
Terry Smith: firstname.lastname@example.org