District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. on Monday sentenced an Idaho Falls man to two to 25 years in prison for fleeing police in a high-speed chase that ended in a crash which seriously injured his passenger.
William Stebelton, 35, pleaded guilty Jan. 31 to felony eluding, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and an enhancement charge of inflicting great bodily injury. Charges of possession of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and failing to purchase a driver’s license were dismissed, pursuant to a plea agreement.
Stebelton is on parole for an October 2012 Ada County conviction for delivery of a controlled substance in which he was sentenced to four to 25 years in prison. Watkins ran Stebelton’s Bonneville County sentence concurrent to his previous conviction. Stebelton served four years in prison on his Ada County conviction, so he will have to serve a portion of his indeterminate period of at least 20 years and will be eligible for parole at the parole board’s discretion. Watkins credited the approximately six months Stebelton has spent in jail.
Idaho Falls Police on Oct. 13 tried to stop Stebelton near Woodruff Avenue and Kearney Street for a traffic violation. Stebelton sped away from police, then hit two parked vehicles after turning onto Ruth Avenue.
Stebelton and his 29-year-old wife, the passenger in the car, were taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. The woman had to have her arm amputated below the shoulder due to injuries caused by the crash.
Officers found a 9 mm firearm and methamphetamine in Stebelton’s vehicle. He told investigators he had used methamphetamine and marijuana prior to the crash.
Stebelton’s attorney, Trent Grant, recommended a two- to 10-year prison term concurrent to his previous conviction. Grant said the victim and Stebelton were engaged to be married prior to the crash and were wed while Stebelton was incarcerated. He said his client regretted the crash and wanted to serve his time and be paroled to take care of his wife.
Tanner Crowther, Bonneville County deputy prosecutor, recommended a two- to 25-year concurrent prison term. Crowther said there were numerous aggravating factors to the crime including the severe injury to the victim. Crowther said Stebelton has eight prior felony convictions.
Stebelton told Watkins prior to being sentenced that he expected to serve at least five years in prison before being eligible for parole.
“Nothing I say can change what I did,” Stebelton said. “I do take responsibility for this. I truly wish I hadn’t done this.”
Watkins said he was “nearly speechless” about the crime and the long prison term held over Stebelton’s head. He said he hoped Stebelton would serve more than five years before being paroled.
“If anyone thinks substance abuse is a victimless crime I wish they were in court to see you. This is a horrible, horrible outcome and (the victim) did not deserve this,” Watkins said. “You are a dangerous individual when you are using.”
Reporter Tom Holm can be reached at 542-6746