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Hubbard County attorney plea bargains down case

The current Hubbard County attorney claims to have integrity and commitment to the citizens of Hubbard County. His track record of "commitment" consists of regularly dismissing or pleading down serious crimes.

Don Dearstyne believes he has worked hard to ensure public safety in Hubbard County. Jessica Christopherson would vehemently disagree -- if she only could. Her three young surviving children would disagree.

Consider the tragic case of State vs. Chad Tabaka. On May 1, Tabaka, while under the influence, was driving a four-wheeler, known for its use in high-speed racing, on a trail near Benedict at an estimated speed of 50-55 mph when he lost control. The airborne ATV left the trail and struck a tree. Tabaka's passenger, 31-year old Jessica Christopherson, died at the scene. Tabaka was charged with criminal vehicular homicide, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

Instead, Dearstyne accepted a plea agreement whereby Tabaka will be sentenced to one year in county jail with work release (he'll be free to leave during the day), a year on electronic home monitoring, and some community service.

Tabaka's voluminous record includes four DWI charges, criminal vehicular operation, reckless driving, driving after revocation, etc. In 2007 he was charged with criminal vehicular operation-bodily harm and leaving the scene. Dearstyne gave him a plea of driver fails to stop for accident to property. He received a stayed sentence of 90 days (i.e., he served no time). Tabaka's actions fall nothing short of murder, yet Dearstyne recommends a slap on the wrist. No wonder criminals love Dearstyne.

Dearstyne is sending a clear message to criminals that Hubbard County is the place to get away with murder. Everyone should be outraged. We need a prosecutor who will do more than what will easily resolve cases. Nathaniel Welte has the energized level of commitment that we need. When you're standing in the voting booth, think about the Tabaka case. Ask yourself what kind of a message you want the county attorney to send. Then dump Dearstyne -- and vote for Welte.

Susan Stillwell