LEBANON – A Wilmington man remains in the Warren County Jail on two charges of operating a vehicle while impaired.
If convicted, they would be his 20th and 21st drunk driving-related convictions, according to Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell.
George R. Tribune, 57, faces two felony counts in the third degree as well as a misdemeanor open-container charge. He was indicted on those charges Aug. 24 by a Warren County grand jury.
Warren County Common Pleas Magistrate Sarah Foster continued a $25,000 bond Wednesday, set by another court upon Tribune, and ordered that he had to wear a GPS monitoring system if he posts bond. She also appointed him an attorney.
Warren County Assistant Prosecutor Teresa Hiett had asked Foster to set a $100,000 bond.
Tribune was booked July 21 after a motorist called police on suspicion of an impaired driver. Police say Tribune was later stopped by a Warren County Sheriff’s deputy in Washington Township, and Tribune tested a blood-alcohol level of “twice the legal limit.”
“When we got the case, what stuck out is that this is his eighth offense in the last 20 years,” said Fornshell. “He has 19 prior overall, with two felony convictions, one as recent as 2009.”
Most of the 19 prior convictions were in Clinton County, according to Fornshell and Clinton County court records.
In addition to the 19 OVI charges, Tribune was found guilty of disobeying a traffic control light, misuse of equipment, two counts of no driver’s license, two counts of driving under suspension and a hit-skip all in 30 years from 1979 to 2009.
His first OVI conviction was 36 years ago, in 1979 in Clinton County.
In 2009 Tribune would have been eligible to receive a lifetime ban from driving, Fornshell said. Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck barred Tribune from driving for 10 years, a ban that was lifted after five years by acting Common Pleas Judge William B. “Bill” McCracken.
McCracken presided over the decision to lift the ban after Rudduck recused himself. The WNJ could not locate a document stating the reason for Rudduck’s recusal. Neither Rudduck nor McCracken immediately returned calls for comment Wednesday afternoon.
“That was a surprise to us, that he was only given 10 years,” Fornshell said. “And then he was reinstated after five years in November, 2014.”
Before having his driving privileges reinstated in November, Tribune took a remedial driver course in Springfield to become eligible to have his license returned, according to court documents.
Tribune’s driving suspension was lifted because of Tribune’s “efforts … to maintain employment and sobriety,” documents stated, and because it was the only “obstacle” on Tribune’s record.
Fornshell said he’s seen DUI cases in which the person has been given driving restrictions after two OVIs. But after 19, including two felonies, Tribune “was a validly licensed driver, just like you or me” he told the News Journal.
“I have no idea what the situation was” with previous decisions, Fornshell said, but “with his history, I couldn’t live with myself short of going after the maximum” prison time, which he said is five years.
Rudduck sentenced Tribune to two years in June 2009. Rudduck later approved Tribune for a judicial release nine months later, in March 2010. The two-year sentence was later reinstated after Tribune was found guilty of aggravated arson in 2012.
“Since being incarcerated I have had time to reflect on my past wrongs,” Tribune said at the release hearing in 2010. “More importantly I have taken the necessary steps to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes.”
The arson charge came from Tribune setting fire to his own home after a roommate allegedly wouldn’t pay rent, stole Tribune’s property, damaged his property, wouldn’t pay for any expenses and refused to leave. Tribune poured gasoline on the living room carpet, ignited it and told his roommate about the fire.
Court records state, “In effect, (Tribune) lost everything he owns but the clothing he was wearing” in the fire.
For that conviction, Rudduck sentenced Tribune to four years of prison in January 2012. Almost two years later, he was judicially released and ordered to complete two years of community controls in November 2013, a sentence that he was released early from in June 2014.
The order releasing Tribune from community controls stated that Tribune had completed assessments and any applicable treatment for alcohol and drug use and mental health and anger management problems.
“I’m just glad we got this case and that it was only for an OVI, not someone getting killed or injured,” Fornshell said. “If that were the case, the public outrage would be significant.”
Reach the Wilmington News Journal by calling 937-382-2574.
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