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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Prosecutor unsure if felony DUI will stick against Crabtree

The deputy prosecutor who didn’t file a felony drunken driving charge against a man with a history of dangerous crashes said she’s not sure she has enough evidence to make the charge stick. James L. Crabtree, 49, appeared in court Tuesday and was told that a previous judge’s order that he not drive was lifted because prosecutors had not filed charging documents. Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mary Ann Brady said she expects to eventually charge Crabtree with something, but possibly not the felony driving under the influence charge being sought by investigators. “Until I can get more reports, I don’t know if can charge felony DUI,” she said. The latest scrape with the law for Crabtree – who worked as a Spokane County Sheriff’s deputy from 1983-86 – came on Nov. 17 when he was arrested near Broadway Avenue and Pines Road after motorists reported him passing out and for rear-ending another car. Other motorists blocked in Crabtree’s Cadillac and deputies arrived and found an open container for Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage now banned in Washington. During booking, jailers found one prescription narcotic in Crabtree’s pocket. Brady said Crabtree denied taking any prescription drugs but acknowledged drinking a couple beers. Deputies noted that he had slurred or slower speech. A breath test showed he had a blood alcohol content of .065 percent, which is below the legal limit of .08 percent. Despite the slurred speech, he performed acceptably in some sobriety tests. Deputies also called in a Washington State Patrol trooper to perform tests to see if Crabtree was under the influence of drugs. “That resulted in a non-conclusive finding. I have to find out what ‘non conclusive’ means before I go forward,” Brady said. “But even if I don’t charge felony DUI, I can always charge negligent driving. That’s not off the table.” If charged, it would be at least the fourth time Crabtree has faced criminal charges since he received a deferred prosecution in 1997 for DUI. On Dec. 16, 2001, Crabtree was under the influence of cocaine when he slammed head-on into the Sheriff’s patrol car. While awaiting sentencing on vehicular assault charges stemming from that crash, Crabtree was arrested for selling cocaine. He was sentenced in 2003 to five years in prison despite pleas from current and former law enforcement officials for leniency. Crabtree had only been out of prison for a short time before he got arrested for a second drunken driving accident, in October 2006. Efforts late Wednesday to contact Crabtree for comment were unsuccessful.