A Payson man who led police on a high-speed drunken chase to Round Valley in September 2012 will spend four months in jail and three years on probation.
Although he denied having a drinking problem, Michael Robert Basner, 44, admitted in court last week that he drank too much that night and his actions were inexcusable as he pleaded guilty to drunk driving, attempted domestic violence and harassment.
“I apologize for my acts,” he said at sentencing. “I know I acted out that day and I shouldn’t have.”
Gila County Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill gave Basner less than half as much time in prison as the prosecution recommended, in response to the pleas of the woman who had once an order of protection against him, but who has now reconciled.
However, Judge Cahill with Gila County Superior Court said Basner clearly has a drinking problem. He ordered Basner to complete an alcohol abuse screening and follow any treatment recommendations as well as attend domestic violence therapy.
Basner seemed to get in trouble whenever he had problems with his girlfriend.
On Sept. 23, 2012, after a domestic dispute, Basner fled in his vehicle. A Gila County Sheriff’s deputy chased Basner for more than six miles at speeds exceeding 70 mph, according to a presentencing report.
Basner got off Highway 87 at Round Valley and blew through a stop sign. The pursuit continued, reaching speeds of 50 mph until Basner stopped. As deputies approached with guns drawn, Basner got out his vehicle and fell to the ground.
When questioned, Basner told deputies he had drunk a big whiskey drink and was way over the legal limit.
“When asked if he was aware of the danger that he placed everyone, he said he didn’t care, that he had outstanding warrants, his license is suspended and that he was recently involved in a domestic dispute with his ‘lady,’” according to the report.
A few weeks later, on Nov. 3, Basner went to his ex-girlfriend’s home, even though she had an order of protection against him. He then refused to leave. Deputies arrived and arrested him for violating the order of protection.
Basner eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated DUI, attempted unlawful flight from police, attempted aggravated domestic violence, aggravated harassment and interfering with judicial proceedings.
Prosecutors asked Cahill for a nine-month sentence, but Cahill asked why he should not instead give Basner the mandatory minimum of four months.
“The reason I did recommend a longer term in the Department of Corrections is this case isn’t just where the defendant is driving under the influence and was pulled over by police and a DUI investigation ensues, this defendant committed a domestic violence offense and fled from police,” said prosecutor Marc Stanley. “That is why I recommended a longer term because circumstances are different than the run-of-the-mill aggravated DUI.”
Basner’s girlfriend said nine months is too long.
Since his arrests, Basner and his girlfriend, 52, the victim in both cases, have reconciled and are living together again.
Basner’s girlfriend said at sentencing that Basner had made a 180-degree improvement since his arrests, attending 26 anger management classes and treating her better.
“My concern though is that people will also go 180 degrees difference for the better in advance of their sentencing and I am always worried they will go another 180 degrees after their sentencing,” Cahill said.
The woman said Basner had realized she was “worth keeping” and had made lifestyle changes.
Basner’s lawyer, Ronald DiBrigida said Basner had always expressed remorse for his actions.
He agreed with Basner’s girlfriend that nine months in DOC is steep, especially since he had taken it upon himself to get help.
“It is obvious that his performance so far, without formally being on probation, gives us some optimism for how he will do on probation,” he said.
Basner told Cahill he did not have a drinking problem. “I drink, but that day I drank a lot; way more than I should,” he said. “I usually don’t, if I do drink it is on holidays, Christmas, a couple beers here and there, but it is not excessive or going to bars or nothing like that.”
“Keep in mind that the question was not whether you have some sort of an addiction, but the question was whether you drink and get into trouble and we are here today because you drank and got in trouble, so you have some sort of alcohol problem,” Cahill said. “The key to you not having any more problems is acknowledging that you have a problem that has to be dealt with.”
Cahill sentenced Basner to four months in prison, three years of probation, payment of all fines and fees and attend domestic violence and alcohol screenings/treatment.