WARSAW — A Warsaw man was denied the option of Community Corrections during his sentencing in Kosciusko Superior Court 1 Monday, March 22.
Phillip Lee Owens, 40, 1010 E. Center St. #3, Warsaw, was charged with battery to a public safety official, a level 5 felony; and operating while intoxicated endangerment, a class A misdemeanor, in September 2020 after head-butting a police officer.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, a Warsaw Police officer was patrolling the area of Center and Columbia streets in Warsaw on Sept. 20, 2020, when he saw an orange Dodge Nitro traveling at a high rate of speed.
The officer noted the vehicle did not have a license plate and initiated a traffic stop at the intersection of Market and Tamarack streets.
An expired temporary license plate was observed in the inside of the Nitro’s rear tinted window. The officer spoke with Owens, who said someone had pulled a gun on him and he was trying to get away.
Owens had slurred speech and was leaning on his SUV for support. The officer questioned Owens’ passenger, a woman, who said there was no such person with a gun and they had not been in any fight with anyone during the time she was with him.
The officer attempted to have Owens perform field sobriety tests and a portable breathalyzer test, but he was unable to complete the tests. He did agree to a voluntary blood draw.
Owens requested permission to smoke and make a phone call, which the officer denied. At that time, Owens became angry and refused to have a blood draw. He was taken to a local hospital, where he head-butted an officer in the chest before being restrained.
A blood draw and brethalizer test showed Owens’ blood alcohol level was 0.140%.
In court Monday, Owens’ attorney, John Barrett, acknowledged a criminal history but said a lot of it is “far removed and unrelated” to the current charges. Barrett said there was a 12-year period between 2007-2019 during which Owens had no arrests.
“I know Mr. Owens and when he’s not drinking he’s the nicest guy in the world,” Barrett said. “When he is drinking, well, you’ve seen the (pre-sentence investigation report).”
Barrett also presented to Judge Karen Springer an acceptance letter from Michiana Community Corrections.
“The harsh reality is this is Mr. Owens’ fourth OWI. He was on bond for another OWI when this happened,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Sobek told Judge Springer. “I don’t know what it takes to get through to Mr. Owens…only he knows that. At some point, enough is enough.”
Sobek said he was not opposed to Owens being in work release but said, “I think we’re way past the point of Community Corrections.”
Being in a community corrections program would have allowed Owens to live at home while being monitored with an ankle bracelet.
Judge Springer said that although statements had been made about the importance of Owens staying away from alcohol, “nowhere in these comments is the correspondence (issue). We need to find a way to take his pen and paper away from him as well.”
Judge Springer then chastised Owens for writing letters to the court and to Springer personally, urging her to “do the right thing” and asking to be released on March 22.
“We can’t keep you away from alcohol,” Judge Springer said. “You have a history of alcohol and battery. You’re a danger to yourself and others.”
She added that Owens is lucky he has not killed himself or someone else.
Judge Springer said it was clear from the letters Owens wrote to the court that he has not accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I do believe you are a community safety risk,” Judge Springer said.
For the charge of battery to a public safety official, Judge Springer sentenced Owens to three years in prison, with one year of the sentence suspended.
For the charge of operating while intoxicated endangerment, Owens was sentenced to one year at IDOC. The sentence was ordered suspended, to be served on formal probation.
The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently but consecutive to any sentence imposed in another pending case.
Judge Springer said she had no objection to Owens serving the sentence through Work Release if he is approved but denied the request for Community Corrections.
A charge of resisting law enforcement with injury, a level 6 felony, was dismissed.