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Judge balks at sentence reduction

March 07, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

More than three years ago, Terri Gable publicly forgave the man who critically injured her in a 1992 drunken driving accident.

But her charity has worn thin since Michael Jeffrey Stevens was arrested again last year for his fourth alcohol-related offense.

Thursday, Stevens, now 40, appeared in Washington County District Court seeking a reduction in his latest 18-month jail sentence for driving while intoxicated.

He wasn't immediately successful.

"After a while, sometimes all you can do is punish people, you know," said District Judge Ralph France.

Gable was in the front row, along with several other members of the Western Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

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She was taking her son to a soccer game on May 12, 1992, when her Subaru station wagon was hit head-on by Stevens' pickup truck on the U.S. 340 bridge.

His blood alcohol level was .25 that day, 21/2 times the legal limit.

Gable was in a coma for six weeks and hospitalized for five months because of her injuries. She still bears scars on her arms, one leg and on her foot, which was crushed.

Medical bills exceeded $500,000.

Her son wasn't injured.

Sentenced to six months in jail for that incident, Stevens completed the Jail Substance Abuse Program and vowed to help others in similar situations.

But since then, there was a new DWI arrest in Maryland, the 18-month jail sentence and a new enrollment in JSAP, which he has completed.

France denied the modification request Thursday even though he said he was puzzled by the prosecution's strong position against it.

"It was sort of a waste of money to send him to JSAP again," France said, noting that by law, sentences are eligible for modification once that course is completed.

Assistant State's Attorney Gina Cirincion argued that Stevens is a public safety risk, given his record which includes two DWIs in Maryland and one each in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"This is the second time Stevens has been through the JSAP program," Cirincion said. "It doesn't seem to mean anything to him."

Defense attorney Lewis Metzner said the most recent drunken driving incident was a suicide attempt, followed closely by another suicide attempt while he was in jail.

In light of that revelation, France ordered mental health testing be performed before he decides whether to reduce Stevens' sentence.

He was returned to the Washington County Detention Center.

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