Prosecutors are attempting to slap a prison term on a Glendora man who they say has one of the worst drunk-driving records in San Gabriel Valley history.
Charles G. Hendrickson, 41, who is scheduled to appear at a pretrial hearing in Superior Court this morning, could face a maximum sentence of nearly six years in state prison if convicted again of driving under the influence of alcohol and other related charges.
It would be his 14th drunk-driving conviction in 10 years.
"I've never heard of a number higher than that, myself," Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Falls said. "It's amazing. This guy knows he's got a problem, but he continues to drive anyway. His attitude has been: The people be damned."
The deputy public defender appointed to represent Hendrickson, who is being held in Los Angeles County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail, could not be reached for comment.
Although his record pales in comparison with that of Gary L. Christopher, the Encino hot tub salesman who in 1984 was convicted of his 27th drunk-driving count, prosecutors say Hendrickson may be among the last of the big-time DUI offenders.
Tougher sentences and more sophisticated computers have helped to snare many drunk drivers who had previously been able to chalk up numerous convictions with impunity. A bill being debated in Sacramento that would require fingerprinting of all convicted drunk drivers could, if passed, weed out the rest.
"As we get all these technological devices and the sentences get more severe, I think we're going to see fewer and fewer people who can get away with something like this," said Dan Jeffries, assistant supervisor in the Los Angeles city attorney's traffic division. "Hopefully, this is the last of a kind."
Hendrickson, who has listed his occupation as welder, construction worker and aerospace worker, managed to rack up such a staggering record with the help of a fraudulently obtained driver's license, prosecutors said.
After being convicted of drunk driving four times in the early 1980s, Hendrickson got a license under the alias of Charles V. Gleason, Falls said. He then picked up seven additional convictions.
In 1987, after serving a six-month jail sentence for driving under the influence, Hendrickson returned to his real name, Falls said. By last year, he had added two more convictions to his tally. Remarkably, none of the cases have involved accidents.
"These repeat offenders are very systematic, very deliberate and very cunning," said Kevin Sloat, administrative assistant for state Sen. Marion Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), who is sponsoring the fingerprinting bill. "They're able to keep walking through the criminal justice system and their trail of arrests doesn't catch up with them."
Hendrickson was last arrested Sept. 3, 1989, after officers observed his 1988 Chevy Blazer swerving across lanes and striking a center divider in San Dimas. A test indicated that his blood-alcohol level was .29%--nearly triple the legal limit at the time, Falls said.
At first, it appeared to be a routine case of misdemeanor drunk driving. Then Falls noticed that records showed Hendrickson had been convicted of driving under the influence four times between 1980 and 1982, but not since.
"That seemed odd," Falls said. "So we did a little digging. It was just a hunch."
A check of Department of Motor Vehicles records showed the second license under the name of Gleason and the seven convictions, Falls said. Then he learned of the two most recent cases, which had not been entered into computers because they were pending in other San Gabriel Valley courthouses.
When Hendrickson arrived for a pretrial hearing in Pomona last month on the September charges, he was taken into custody and held on $50,000 bail.
He now faces charges of felony drunk-driving because of a 1989 law that sets higher penalties for defendants who have three prior convictions in a seven-year period. He is also accused of perjury and driving with a revoked license.
If convicted on all counts, Hendrickson could face up to five years, eight months in state prison.
"Anyone with 13 prior drunk-driving arrests should be dealt with severely," said Carolee Newman, coordinator of development and public relations for the Los Angeles County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "If he hasn't killed anybody yet, he will."