By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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Jefferson County Superior Court Judge Keith Harper sentenced Paul D. Davis, 41, to 17 months in prison Friday after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of vehicular assault.
On March 13, Davis was driving a Buick LeSabre at 79 mph and with a blood-alcohol content of 0.329 percent — the legal limit is 0.08 — when the car left the road and hit a tree on Umatilla Avenue, the State Patrol said.
“You made a conscious choice to get behind the wheel of a car when you were intoxicated, go into a school zone and pick up two children,” Harper said prior to his ruling.
“With the speed you drove, 79 mph in a 25 mph zone and the damage was done, it's amazing that three people didn't die and they walked away from this.”
With a sentencing range of 13 to 17 months for the crime, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans recommended the higher end while Noah Harrison, Davis' attorney, called for the minimum.
“This wasn't a mistake,” Rosekrans said.
“This was a conscious decision where Mr. Davis showed no regard for everyone's safety.”
Said Harrison: “Mr. Davis feels a tremendous shame and pain which no words can describe.
“He has already changed his life. He checked into treatment voluntarily, which was long overdue, and he has not had a drink since the accident.
“This will haunt him for a long time.”
In June, after two months in treatment, Davis, who owns the Public House Restaurant in Port Townsend, was charged with two counts of vehicular assault and one count of driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle.
The last charge was dropped because “with the two felony counts, the DUI was a moot point,” Rosekrans said.
Davis was taken into custody immediately following the hearing and taken to Shelton.
He will be transported to a yet-to-be determined Department of Corrections facility.
'A terrible choice'
“I made a terrible choice, a choice that I cannot change, but I can better myself,” Davis said Friday, reading from a victim impact statement that was submitted into the court record.
“It is very humbling and not easy for me to acknowledge that I was sick, depressed and angry.
“Not one person can look at me the same way as they once had. My life and theirs have changed dramatically.”
The passengers in the car were Davis' daughter, Ella Davis, 11, and her friend Lily Teagarden, 12.
Davis and his daughter were extricated with the Jaws of Life, transported to Jefferson Healthcare and then immediately airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Teagarden was taken to Jefferson Healthcare, where it was determined her injuries were more serious than what was originally determined, and she was airlifted later in the afternoon.
All three were initially in critical condition.
Jasmine Teagarden, Lily's mother, cried as she told of her fears that her daughter would not live.
“I am grateful that Paul is taking responsibility for his actions,” she said.
“But I feel it's my place to speak for other victims about this nightmare, where my baby was almost taken from me.”
Teagarden said she was left with almost $200,000 in medical bills.
A restitution hearing is planned for Jan. 30.
Davis received a deferred sentence in Kitsap County in December 2012 for driving under the influence.
On Friday, his attorney said that in the 2012 incident, Davis wasn't driving badly; he was pulled over for a broken tail light, and when he was tested, “he blew a little over,” Harrison said.
Harper responded that Davis should have taken that opportunity to realize his problem and seek treatment at that time.
“Most people don't even get one DUI in their lives,” Harper said. “You got a DUI and went on to commit vehicular assault.”
Should Davis be arrested again for DUI, he would “get some serious jail time” because of the prior felony convictions, Rosekrans said.
Davis, who is the main chef at the Public House Restaurant, is needed by his business and his family, according to Harrison, who said in court that the restaurant “is teetering on the edge of failure.”
Both families now can heal, Harrison said.
“I think it's good that Paul and the community can learn from this: that drinking and driving and alcoholism can lead to horrible events and tragedy,” Harrison said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.