Port Angeles man sentenced for Sequim police chase

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A man who led police on a 2 a.m. vehicle chase in Sequim earlier this year was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days of electronically monitored home confinement, six weeks of community service and two years of community custody.

John F. Morris, 32, of Port Angeles also received a stern talk from Clallam County Superior Court Judge S. Brooke Taylor, who sentenced Morris for driving under the influence and attempting to elude a police officer.

Morris, who received credit for two days served, could be sentenced to up to 362 days in jail if he violates the conditions of his sentence during the next five years and, in particular, gets another DUI, Taylor said.

“There are 362 days hanging over your head,” he said.

Reading directly from Sequim Police Officer Michael Hill’s probable-cause affidavit, Taylor noted how fortunate Morris was that no one was hurt or killed in the pursuit, during which Morris sped southbound down the northbound lane of Sequim Avenue.

“I want you to realize how close you came to not just a felony, if not a fatality,” Taylor said.

Account of chase

Court documents give this account:

The chase began shortly after 2 a.m. Oct. 7 outside a Sequim bar in the 300 block of West Washington Street after Morris refused to acknowledge a police vehicle’s emergency lighting and siren.

Morris sped to Sequim Avenue, which was under construction.

He made a U-turn on Sequim Avenue, jumped a raised median, drove more than 40 mph southbound in the 25-mph northbound lane and motored over an embankment through tall grass onto U.S. Highway 101.

The chase ended about a quarter-mile away on U.S. Highway 101.

There, Morris stopped his vehicle on the side of the road and apologetically turned himself in.

“That’s the kind of driving, Mr. Morris, that ends up in a fatality,” Taylor said.

“If that were to happen, you would have a courtroom of people making sure you go to prison for probably three or four years.”

Instead, in a courtroom empty of spectators, Taylor alluded to Morris’ ongoing effort to obtain his Bachelor of Science and desire to attend graduate school.

“Good luck. Finish your education, and move on in life,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he reviewed Morris’ criminal history: three convictions for resisting arrest, three convictions for fourth-degree assault and one conviction for third-degree assault.

“After going through your criminal history, I said, ‘This is a man with an alcohol problem,’” Taylor said.

Morris registered 0.118 percent blood-alcohol level in a Breathalyzer test, while the legal limit in Washington state is 0.08 percent.

According to Hill’s affidavit, Morris’ speech was slurred and repetitive, his eyes were watery, and he admitted to consuming “multiple alcoholic beverages.”

Tavern assault

The chase ensued after Morris himself called police at 1:10 a.m. Oct. 7 to report he had been assaulted at the tavern.

But police determined after interviewing witnesses and potential suspects that Morris allegedly had caused the disturbance by assaulting a man who afterward fled.

Hill and another officer parked near the tavern and tried stopping Morris after he got in his car shortly after 2 a.m.

Morris’ seven convictions include county District Court charges of resisting arrest and fourth-degree assault for shoving a state Department of Transportation crew member — without causing injury — on U.S. Highway 101 east of Port Angeles on June 13, 2011.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 18. 2012 6:02PM
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