A 49-year-old Spokane man with a history of driving under the influence was arrested in Spokane Valley Wednesday after concerned motorists blocked his path.
James L. Crabtree, a local real estate agent who worked as a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy in the 1980s, left jail on $3,500 bond Thursday after appearing in Superior Court on a drug possession charge.
He’s prohibited from driving under an order from Judge Sam Cozza.
A Spokane County sheriff’s deputy smelled alcohol on Crabtree’s breath and found an open container of Four Loko in his car, the caffeinated alcoholic beverage now banned in Washington. Wednesday was the last day it could legally be purchased.
Crabtree’s friend Glenn Sapp said the can belonged to a man who Crabtree had dropped off just minutes before his arrest.
Sapp said a Clonazepam pill found in Crabtree’s pocket — a prescription anxiety drug — belonged to another friend who dropped it in Crabtree’s Cadillac.
“He hasn’t been drinking, he hasn’t been doing any dope at all - not even marijuana,” Sapp said.
But deputies said in court documents that Crabtree acknowledged he had drunk two beers and had a blood-alcohol level of .065. The legal limit for driving is .08.
Crabtee was arrested near Broadway Avenue and Pines Road about 3:30 p.m. after motorists reported him “passing out” and nearly colliding with other cars as he drove west on Broadway.
Crabtree was convicted of vehicular assault and drug charges for a 2001 collision that nearly killed sheriff’s Deputy Earl Howerton, who was on patrol on Bigelow Gulch Road.
It took two years for Howerton to recover; he has since been promoted to sheriff’s lieutenant.
Crabtree was sentenced to five years in prison in August 2003, despite pleas for leniency from Spokane’s police chief at the time, Roger Bragdon, and former Spokane County Prosecutor Don Brockett.
Crabtree was involved in another drunken collision after his release from prison in 2006.
“He apparently has not gotten the message that he cannot use any type of substance,” Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said on Thursday. “He’s dangerous.”
Crabtree has been charged with negligent driving in Spokane County District Court in connection with Wednesday’s arrest, but Brady said she may pursue a felony drunken driving charge because of his prior criminal record.
Crabtree’s friend Terri Gunderson said he’s being unfairly targeted because he used to be a deputy.
“They’re trying to make an example out of him because he used to be a cop,” Gunderson said.
Crabtree was hired as a sheriff’s cadet in January 1980 and as a deputy sheriff in March 1983. He resigned in July 1986.
His girlfriend, Cheryl Dassow, said he’s worked as a real estate agent for more than a year and shouldn’t be judged for his past troubles.
“Jim is the most kindest, gentlest man,” Dassow said.