By MARY RAINWATER
A 45-year-old Palestine man was sentenced to 20 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for felony driving while intoxicated by District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans during a sentencing trial Monday at the Anderson County Courthouse.
According to District Attorney Doug Lowe, Robert Fitzgerald Clayton’s sentence was the maximum possible length and followed a jury finding Clayton guilty of DWI during a trial on Sept. 11.
Evidence presented by the district attorney’s office Monday showed that Clayton was previously sentenced to seven years in prison in September 2010. The defendant's parole officer, Kristi Kusch testified that Clayton was paroled from prison in November 2011.
The arrest that resulted in that 20-year sentence occurred on Dec. 12, 2012, when Palestine Police Department Corporal Matthew Kerr was patrolling near Taco Bell on Crockett Road just outside of Loop 256 and heard what sounded like a car crash.
Kerr radioed that he was headed to the JJ’s convenience store next to Taco Bell, where he believed the wreck had occurred.
Kerr and PPD Officer Justin Carlson, who also was patrolling in the area, arrived at JJ’s at about the same time and found Clayton standing outside of his 2000 Ford Explorer, which had collided with a post in the store’s back parking lot.
Clayton, who had locked himself out of the vehicle with the motor running, admitted to officers that he had been driving the vehicle, but told them that he had only had two beers.
“After doing field sobriety tests the officers determined that Clayton was probably intoxicated and arrested him for the DWI,” Lowe said. “Blood drawn from Clayton at the Anderson County Jail by a phlebotomist showed a blood alcohol level of .205 – over 2.5 times the legal limit of .08.”
During the September trial, First Assistant District Attorney Stanley Sokolowski and Lowe represented the State of Texas, with Assistant District Attorney Scott Holden presenting the evidence in Monday’s sentencing hearing. Clayton was represented by local attorney Scott Nicholson.
“Clayton is a danger and he can’t be controlled on probation or parole,” Holden said. “For the protection of the public and our community, he needs to be locked up for as long as possible.”
Because of Clayton’s prior prison sentence, the maximum prison term available was increased from 10 years to 20 years. Holden requested that the 20-year sentence be consecutive, or stacked, on the remainder of the 7-year sentence Clayton received in 2010.
Judge Evans ordered that the 20-year sentence not start until Clayton had discharged the remainder of the 7-year sentence and commented that she too believed Clayton was a “danger.”
“I’m very pleased with Judge Evans’ sentence and the stacking order,” Lowe said. “The only thing I am disappointed about is the realization that he (Clayton) will likely parole again and not have to do the full time on either of his sentences.”