Japheth Tyler Eckles, 35, of Twin Falls, was sentenced on Friday to a retained jurisdiction, also known as a “rider,” with a suspended sentence of five to 10 years, after pleading guilty to a felony DUI in June.
Eckles, through tears at his sentencing Friday in Blaine County 5th District Court, thanked the court for giving him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself. The retained jurisdiction program consists of a series of therapeutic and substance-abuse treatments at an Idaho correctional facility.
Besides the DUI plea, Eckles was also sentenced Friday during the same hearing to a charge out of Jerome County for attempting to elude a police officer in a car in November, a felony.
In that case, Eckles pleaded guilty to the felony charge in exchange for dismissal of two misdemeanor charges—resisting or obstructing arrest and consuming or possessing an open alcoholic beverage in a vehicle.
Jerome County prosecutor Eileen McDevitt, addressing the court over the phone on Friday, said the recommendation for sentencing was appropriate given the defendant’s flight risk. In both the Blaine County and Jerome County cases, Eckles failed to appear at court hearings and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. He has remained in the Blaine County jail since he was taken back into custody on July 28.
“Clearly, the defendant does not qualify for probation,” McDevitt said.
Blaine County prosecutor Matt Fredback agreed with McDevitt, adding that the defendant clearly has a problem with alcohol, and is prone to violence when under the influence.
Eckles’ attorney, Doug Nelson, agreed that his client needs help with substance abuse and mental-health disorders and that a rider would be a good opportunity for him to get treatment.
“[A] retained jurisdiction is the most appropriate thing,” Nelson said in court Friday.
In Eckles’ statement to the court prior to sentencing, he said he appreciated everything the court had done for him in allowing him the opportunity get sober and get help rather than just sit in prison.
“I knew I needed to lose everything to come back to this and get help,” he said.
Eckles said he had been sober for six years before he started drinking and using drugs again last year. In one of the pre-sentence investigation interviews, he described his use of alcohol and drugs as a “rollercoaster,” and said Friday that for the rest of his life he would remain sober.
According to a probable-cause affidavit written by Sun Valley Police Officer Kristopher Gergen, Eckles was pulled over in Sun Valley on Dec. 7 for driving without headlights on and crossing over a center line when making a turn. A breathalyzer test provided blood-alcohol-content readings of 0.150 and 0.153, nearly twice the legal limit of 0.07 percent. Eckles had previously been convicted of felony DUI in 2009 in Gooding County, making this additional DUI a felony as well.