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Doug Clark: In the name of public safety, let’s Send Batty Packing

Sun., April 8, 2012

Show of hands, please.

Anyone think we’ve finally seen the last of that drunken-driving disaster, David Batty?

I didn’t think so.

The retired Spokane firefighter’s latest DUI conviction could put him in the hoosegow for up to 29 months. But this cynical voice in my head tells me that once time is served, Batty will one day be back to resume his irresponsible ways.

Really. If the deaths of four men don’t change your behavior, what good will a year or two in lockup do?

That’s why I’ve come up with the Send Batty Packing campaign.

It’s a simple idea for the good of public safety.

We raise money via bake sales and car washes while Batty’s off cooling his heels. Then when he gets out, we try to bribe him into moving far, far away.

There are basic flaws to this, I know.

Like, what other country would be stupid enough to let this loser in?

To recap: It took a jury only 35 minutes Thursday to convict the Elk resident for felony driving under the influence.

I’m actually shocked it took that long to state the obvious. One of the jurors must’ve needed a bathroom break.

If this verdict has a déjà vu ring to it, here’s why.

This was Batty’s second felony drunken-driving conviction in just four years.

The silver lining is that no undertakers needed to be called – this time.

You can’t always say that when the name Batty pops up on a police report.

In 1992, a drunken-driving Batty slaughtered David Cole, a U.S. Forest Service employee, on U.S. Highway 2.

Jump ahead to January 2007. Same highway.

Batty played a significant role in a wreck that took the lives of three men: Gregory Stueck, Kalen Hearn and Michael Edwards.

Investigators said Batty’s pickup clipped a van, triggering a violent vehicular chain-reaction.

No drinking this time. Although Batty had been taking prescription pain meds for a bad back, toxicology tests found that he was NOT impaired at the time of the crash.

Yet Batty still could have been prosecuted because police believed he had caused the crash.

That’s precisely what should have happened.

It should have been up to a jury to determine Batty’s guilt or innocence.

Unfortunately, we will never know because Steve Tucker – our joke of a county prosecutor – declined to prosecute.

What is it about David Batty and lucky breaks?

His good fortune started after killing Cole. Barely into his two-year sentence for vehicular homicide, the firefighter was allowed to return to firehouse duties on a work-release program.

Then the nincompoops running the city sealed the deal in 1995 by hiring Batty back full time.

I wrote about this case at the time. I’ve always viewed hiring Batty as an insult to every firefighter with a clean record.

Lucky break No. 2 came in 2007. Not prosecuted, Batty retired from the fire department with a chance to start over.

It’s unimaginable to me to think that anyone with Batty’s background would ever even consider driving while impaired or intoxicated.

The message obviously doesn’t sink in for this man. His most recent DUI is a classic example.

State troopers pulled over Batty’s Cadillac for speeding about 11:30 a.m. last year on Jan. 6.

When the subject of alcohol came up, “Batty initially told troopers he hadn’t had a drink in two years,” our news story reported.

The 56-year-old later admitted to drinking a couple of Mike’s Hard Lemonades, beginning about 10 a.m.

Downing citrus juice in the morning isn’t unusual. Most people, however, take their breakfast drink in a form that won’t make you blotto.

On the way to the station, according to our story, “troopers noted that Batty appeared to be falling asleep as he rode in the back of the patrol car.”

Such a prize.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a period of incarceration will change Batty for the better.

I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, I’m thinking deportation is the only protection we’d ever have against this guy.

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


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