We’re in King County Superior Court again this afternoon – this time in the courtroom of Judge Laura Inveen, who has just sentenced 23-year-old Donald Plute of Top Hat to a 10-year, 9-month sentence. Plute pleaded guilty in February to charges stemming from a morning-long rampage last August – he stole a vehicle on Alki, then reverse-rammed it into a pursuing vehicle containing its owner, and later reverse-rammed a police car trying to pull him over in Morgan Junction. He subsequently sped off into Gatewood, abandoned the vehicle and ran. This is a “huge sentence,” as Judge Inveen put it, compared to what he had been given for so many crimes before. The only person in the courtroom besides your WSB team, the lawyers, and the judge, was Plute’s father, who spoke briefly, as did Plute. More details in a bit – we’re off to breaking news. (Courthouse-hallway photo taken today by Katie Meyer for WSB)
ADDED 5:40 PM: Deputy prosecuting attorney Alex Voorhees described Plute’s spree as “a really dangerous situation for almost the entire neighborhood of West Seattle,” considering not only the vehicles he rammed but also pedestrians and others along the roads across the peninsula he used between stealing and running.”
Representing Plute, defense attorney Eric Spencer said Plute “acknowledges he has a very serious problem with substance abuse and needs some time off the streets in order to (address it) … he does understand the gravity of what he’s done and how much more serious it could have been.”
Plute’s father spoke, saying he would rather see his son get treatment than a long prison sentence, and saying Plute’s mother had just gone through two surgical procedures and he just hopes she’s still alive when he gets out.
“You’re familiar with your son’s criminal history?” asked Judge Inveen.
“I know he’s got a lot of points but … last time he was (in) he got degrees in welding and fiber-optics but (after getting out) he got back into drugs and alcohol.”
The judge noted that Plute had been given a chance with DOSA, Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative – less prison time if you go through treatment and stay clean – in 2010.
Plute spoke on his own behalf for a moment or two, too quietly for us to hear from the gallery. The judge said his record appeared to have something similar, including eluding, in 2008. She pointed out that the sentencing before his had been in a wrenching case involving a hit-run death and a drug-addicted suspect – “she’s going to prison and has nowhere near the background you do.” Judge Inveen continued, “I see a lot of people with drug problems. It’s a terrible thing, it’s a disease, but it’s not an excuse for stealing cars and doing the stuff you did. … You’ve been given opportunities … this is a huge sentence, (but) it’s the low end of the range. I don’t have the discretion to go lower than that. Under these circumstances, I hope you will grow up, and do some good things.”
With that, she decreed the recommended 129-month sentence (counting other sentences running concurrently – he had pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault, and attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle), with credit for the 7 months he has been in jail so far, plus restitution to be finalized later (the judge noted he already has some piled up from earlier cases on his record, which stretches back to age 15), and 18 months of community custody (probation) when he gets out.