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Nye County DA pleads guilty to reckless driving, avoids jail

Nine months after he crashed two vehicles in six hours on the same stretch of California highway, Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving and agreed to complete a class on the dangers of alcohol and automobiles.

Beckett will not be prosecuted for drunken driving under the plea deal entered in Barstow, Calif., Superior Court on Friday.

Prosecutors agreed to drop the charge, which was brought after police said Beckett failed a breath test at the scene of his second accident on June 15.

The first crash came at about 1:30 p.m., when Beckett totaled his county-issued sport utility vehicle in a single-vehicle rollover accident on California Route 127 just south of Shoshone, Calif.

After catching a ride back to his home in Pahrump in a tow truck, Beckett headed back out on the same highway in the family van, only to crash again at 7:35 p.m. about 35 miles south of the first accident scene.

The California Highway Patrol officer who responded to the second crash reported smelling alcohol on Beckett’s breath. When a breath test showed a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit of .08 percent, Beckett was arrested and taken to Baker, Calif., where he was cited and released into the custody of a friend who came to pick him up.

Beckett will not spend any time in jail as a result of his plea.

He was placed on three years of unsupervised probation and ordered to complete an “alcohol wet reckless program,” usually a 12-hour class held over six weeks that focuses on the risks and penalties associated with drinking and driving.

Beckett also will have to pay a $1,703 fine, the amount normally charged to first-time misdemeanor drunken driving offenders.

Plea agreements like this one are “not at all unusual,” said Joel Buckingham, a deputy district attorney for San Bernardino County.

Don Chairez, Beckett’s attorney, said his client has not received any preferential treatment from police, prosecutors or the courts in California.

“This is a good resolution,” Chairez said of the deal. “Bob was willing to fight the case as long as he was being prosecuted for drunk driving.”

Specifically, Chairez said he planned to question the accuracy of the breath test that showed Beckett with a blood-alcohol level of .10 percent. The test could have been a false positive, Chairez argued, because Beckett is a borderline diabetic with a glucose intolerance that can skew Breathalyzer devices.

Beckett was not diagnosed with the condition until a few weeks after the accidents, when he fainted at his home and was taken to the emergency room, Chairez said.

Beckett admits to drinking one 16-ounce light beer at home after the first crash, but he denies consuming any other alcohol that day.

Nye County’s chief prosecutor did not responded to repeated requests for comment. In the wake of his disastrous Father’s Day, he lost a bid for district judge, finishing a distant third out of three candidates in the Aug. 12 primary election.

Beckett is about midway through his fourth term as district attorney, a position he has held since January 1995. The elected post pays him a base salary of $105,616, plus $21,123 a year in longevity pay.

Sandy Heverly, executive director of the Nevada nonprofit group STOP DUI, said she wasn’t familiar with the specifics of Beckett’s case, but if he was drinking and driving she thinks he should consider a career change.

“I think it’s an extremely poor example to set for the rest of us who are law abiding citizens,” she said. “These are the kind of people we hold to a higher standard. I say find a different field of work.”

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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