A drunken driver who served prison time for killing his passenger in 2012 -- then in 2016 sent a 3-year-old girl to the hospital because he drove drunk again -- was sentenced to 90 days in jail and an alcohol treatment program for the latest incident.
Oregon sentencing guidelines recommended that 32-year-old Serengaw Ham be ordered to prison for three years or more, but Multnomah County Circuit Judge David Rees said during a hearing last week that trying to fix the source of Ham's problem is a better solution. Ham will take part in the DUII Intensive Supervision Program, a rigorous treatment program designed to help repeat intoxicated drivers stay sober and off the road.
"The goal here at the end of the program is to have someone in recovery," Rees said. "That's a much better outcome than sending them to prison, then they get out of prison and they're still a danger to the community. We're in the business of change, here."
According to court papers, the 3-year-old girl was one of two children riding along Southeast Powell Boulevard just east of Interstate 205 when Ham slammed into their car. The girl complained of pain in her head and was brought to the hospital for an evaluation.
During last week's hearing, prosecutor Tara Gardner said the girl's mother reports that her daughter was deeply shaken by the crash and now, more than five months later, is still having bad dreams about it.
"The irresponsibility and poor choices of Mr. Ham almost killed her daughter," said Gardner, relaying mother Angela Kraljev's sentiments to the judge.
The prosecutor had asked for 25 months in prison plus probation that she said would have allowed Ham to enter the same DUII Intensive Supervision Program.
The judge said if Ham fails in treatment, he will face prison time.
Ham's problems with alcohol stem back to at least age 19, when he was convicted of being a minor in possession of alcohol and carrying an open container of alcohol on public property in Portland.
In 2010 and 2011, Ham drove while intoxicated in Multnomah and Clackamas counties and was convicted in both instances. Ham was ordered to at total of 35 days in jail in both incidents, to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and to listen to victims of intoxicated drivers talk about how their lives had forever changed.
In April 2012, Clark County Sheriff's investigators say Ham's blood alcohol level was .12 percent and he tested positive for marijuana after driving into a tree near Battle Ground, killing a passenger in his Ford Crown Victoria. He was sentenced to 2½ years in Washington prison. His driver's license was revoked for one year, according to news reports.
Then, on May 14, 2016, Ham was caught drinking and driving again -- this time at about 7:20 p.m. when he rear-ended a Honda carrying a woman and two children, ages 3 and 14.
The force propelled the family's Honda into another Chevy, which careened across an oncoming lane of traffic and onto the sidewalk, according to a probable-cause affidavit.
Ham kept driving and slammed into a BMW, whose driver gave chase but backed off when Ham tried to run him off the road by side-swiping his BMW, the affidavit said.
Four hours later, a Portland police officer spotted Ham driving his car with front-end damage. Ham's blood alcohol level was .13 percent when it was tested, about five hours after the crash. The legal limit for driving is .08 percent.
Ham was ticketed for failing to install an ignition interlock device, driving while suspended and driving while uninsured.
Earlier this month, Ham pleaded no contest to hit-and-run driving and third-degree assault committed while driving under the influence of intoxicants, among other charges. The prosecution said he injured three people total: the 3-year-old, her mother and the driver of the BMW.
During Friday's hearing, Ham declined to make a statement through a Chuukese interpreter. He was born in Micronesia and immigrated to the United States. His wife and three young children sat in the back of the courtroom.
Ham's attorney, Stacey Reding, said Ham is amenable to treatment and has followed release orders while out of jail after his arrest.
Ham was booked into jail for his 90-day sentence Friday but immediately released because he already served a few months after his May arrest.
As part of his participation in the DUII Intensive Supervision Program, he will have to wear an alcohol detection anklet for 90 days, provide a sample of urine for random testing and actively take part in treatment. The program is expected to take more than a year to complete.
He will be on probation for three years.
-- Aimee Green
Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.
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