A man who pleaded guilty to driving a school bus while drunk showed up for his sentencing Tuesday disheveled and intoxicated, shouted obscenities in the Van Nuys courthouse hallway, and interrupted court proceedings by muttering “No way, Jose” as his lawyer sought to silence him.
Superior Court Judge James A. Coleman stopped the sentencing proceedings and ordered Harold Keith Lone handcuffed and taken to a jail cell for a blood-alcohol test. A short time later, Lone’s blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.35%--more than four times the 0.08% level at which a person is legally presumed to be intoxicated, Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Plafker said.
Coleman ordered Lone to return to court today. The incident may cost the 40-year-old Los Angeles man a plea-bargain and double his possible sentence, a prosecutor said.
“I’ve never seen someone show up drunk on the day of sentencing,” said a stunned prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gloria Mas. “It’s a spit in the face of the system.”
Spokesmen for the district attorney’s office said a drunk defendant could be considered incapable of understanding court proceedings.
Mas said the incident threw into question a plea-bargain reached in March when Lone pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence of alcohol for being drunk when he arrived to pick up children at an Encino elementary school in January.
Lone also pleaded guilty to one count of perjury for using an alias to obtain a driver’s license in order to secure a job as a school bus driver with Laidlaw Transit Co. Prosecutors said Lone used the name Harold Keith Holmes to hide five previous drunk-driving convictions and a lengthy arrest record for crimes that included robbery, burglary and auto theft.
In exchange for Lone’s guilty plea, prosecutors had agreed to drop an additional count of driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license and said they would seek a sentence of no more than 2 years, 8 months in prison.
Mas said the judge had agreed to the arrangement, but now might order Lone to stand trial on all four charges, which carry a possible sentence of 4 years, 8 months in prison.
The rationale for the plea-bargain was that Lone pleaded guilty before trial and acknowledged responsibility for driving drunk, Mas said.
But on Tuesday, Lone showed up for court an hour late, dressed in shorts, a soiled white T-shirt and a blue jacket emblazoned with the word “Laidlaw.” He shouted profanities and made obscene gestures at news photographers in the hallway.
Inside court, Lone interrupted Coleman as he discussed sentencing options.
“No. No way. No way, Jose,” Lone muttered.