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Sunday, July 12, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Evidence lacking for DUI charges, official says

Case on hold while deputy prosecutor awaits reports

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 I 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 for rear-ending another car near Broadway Avenue and Pines Road after motorists reported him passing out.

Other motorists blocked in Crabtree’s Cadillac, and deputies arrived and found an open container of 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 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 nonconclusive finding. I have to find out what ‘nonconclusive’ 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 a 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 another DUI accident, in October 2006. Efforts late Wednesday to contact Crabtree for comment were unsuccessful.

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