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Doug Clark: Second chances can lead to tragic consequences

David Batty. Has there ever been a more aptly named screw-up?

And once again, Batty is generating the sort of batty news we’ve come to associate with the now-retired Spokane firefighter.

He pleaded not guilty last week to his latest drunk-driving beef. This charge stems from a January bust where Batty was pulled over by a Washington state trooper for speeding on U.S. Highway 2.

The cop smelled the telltale aroma on Batty’s breath. Subsequent blood-alcohol tests showed Batty to be illegally pickled times two.

Did I mention that this traffic stop reportedly took place about 11:30 a.m.?

Tanked to the tonsils and not even noon.

Allegedly.

Yes, it’s important to repeat that Batty is contesting his DUI, which means he’s innocent as a newborn lamb until proven guilty, and yada-yada-yada …

It makes you wonder. Hasn’t this guy already used up his lifetime supply of lucky breaks and second chances?

Batty’s first break came after slaughtering David Cole, a U.S. Forest Service employee, on U.S. Highway 2.

That occurred in 1992. Batty, blind drunk, swerved his pickup across a lane and plowed head-on into Cole’s jeep.

Batty was convicted of vehicular homicide and given a two-year sentence. Eleven months after taking Cole’s life, however, Batty was back at the firehouse on a work-release program.

In 1995, city officials disgraced themselves and every decent firefighter by giving Batty a permanent job.

What could possibly go wrong?

January 2007. Batty was on medical leave and driving his pickup on U.S. Highway 2 when …

( Hmm. Anyone seeing a pattern here?)

… he clipped the back of a van, causing a vehicular chain of violence that snuffed the lives of three men: Gregory Stueck, Kalen Hearn and Michael Edwards.

No drinking this go-round. The Elk resident had been taking some prescribed meds, but a toxicology report cleared Batty of being impaired at crash time.

Even so, police believed Batty had caused the carnage. That meant he could be prosecuted.

For that to happen, Spokane County would have to have a real prosecutor, of course. Instead we have Steve Tucker, who decided to boldly do, um, nothing.

And so Batty, gifted with this good fortune, retired from the Fire Department.

If only he had the sense to quit the police blotter, too.

July 2008. Batty had his license revoked after being arrested and booked into jail “on charges of felony drunken driving and possession of a controlled substance.” Being unlicensed didn’t slow him down. Batty was cited for speeding and causing two more car wrecks.

As one of our editorials noted, “Yes, that’s four violations after the 2007 crash.”

In 2009, Batty was sentenced to nine months for felony drunken driving.

Now comes his aforementioned January DUI arrest.

Until his trial in April, Batty supposedly can’t drive. He is apparently being tested at random for intoxicants. Doing this, a judge ruled, will allow Batty to keep out of a cell.

I’d go a step further. I wouldn’t let David Batty operate so much as a skateboard.

With this loser’s track record, it’d be a matter of time before some poor innocent soul got impaled.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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