Chronic criminal’s sentence to include drug rehab

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WALLA WALLA — A man with a long history of drug addiction has been given an opportunity to address his problem.

Stephen D. Bennett, 36, will serve a sentence of more than a year behind bars for leading law enforcement on a Fourth-of-July vehicle chase east of the city.

Upon his release, he will then spend a like amount of time on community custody with a requirement he complete drug treatment.

The sentence, imposed Monday afternoon by Superior Court Judge Scott Wolfram, is a drug offender alternative in lieu of a 22- to 29-month standard-range prison term. Under mandated terms of the alternative included in state law, Bennett will end up serving half the midpoint of the standard range — 12 months and three weeks — incarcerated, followed by the same amount of time under the post-prison supervision.

He already has spent 204 days locked up in the County Jail, for which he will be given credit. His early release date with good-time credit will be “quite soon,” his lawyer, Julie Brown, said in court.

Wolfram also ordered Bennett to pay $1,637 in court costs and fees relating to the case.

Bennett has a rap sheet that totals 20 prior crimes in Walla Walla and Umatilla counties since 1998. About half of them were direct drug offenses.

The alternative sentence mandating treatment was recommended by the prosecution in a plea agreement.

Before the sentence was imposed, Bennett told Wolfram, “I really need to address my chemical dependency issues. I ask that you’d please go with the recommendation so I can deal with these issues.”

In a letter to the court after the chase, Bennett, of 3289 Mill Creek Road, acknowledged he had been high on methamphetamine.

Bennett pleaded guilty last month to attempting to elude a police vehicle on July 4, in addition to an unrelated charge of possessing a stolen credit card on April 21.

Officials said a Walla Walla police officer spotted him driving a Pontiac Grand Am in the 2200 block of Isaacs Avenue about 5:55 p.m. on Independence Day.

Bennett — who had two outstanding arrest warrants — sped east on Isaacs at more than 65 mph, blew through the stop light at Tausick Way and headed up Mill Creek Road.

The pursuing officer then followed Bennett onto Seven Mile Road, but had to slow because of dust, according to a police report filed in court.

The Grand Am was located abandoned at the base of a hill, and Bennett was found hiding in a dry creek bottom surrounded by tall grass. A female passenger wasn’t found.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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