Now that Paul Guy Bredehoft has his 10th drunken driving conviction, prosecutors say they'll push to see him go to prison.
Jurors sat through six days of testimony, then took a remarkably short 40 minutes late Wednesday to find the 39-year-old guilty of automobile homicide, a second-degree felony.Friends and family of Sean Adkins, a 17-year-old Highland High student who died when struck by Bredehoft's vehicle, spent several minutes hugging and crying after the verdict was announced.
"It's going to hurt for a while, I think, but I'm glad it ended this way," said Eric Wadley, one of six teens with Adkins when he was killed March 1.
"This means I can put an end to six months of agony over what's going to happen next. I can close this part of my life," said an emotional Brad Adkins, the victim's brother.
He hopes the verdict sends a message to those who drink and drive.
"I think that maybe some people will understand now that it's not just a ticket. It's possibly . . . prison. I would hope that gets across to people."
Bredehoft had a blood-alcohol content of 0.27 - nearly 31/2 times the legal limit - when his vehicle struck a disabled car parked in the emergency lane on the I-15 northbound collector near 2400 South.
Witnesses say Bredehoft was traveling in the emergency lane and was driving between 54 and 62 mph when he struck the vehicle. The group of teens on their way to a basketball game jumped out of the way, but Adkins ran the other direction and was hit and thrown 113 feet to his death.
Investigators in the Salt Lake County attorney's office discovered that Bredehoft has been convicted nine other times of driving under the influence of alcohol. After his arrest in March, he was also charged with driving on a suspended license with no registration or insurance.
Bredehoft pleaded guilty to the three misdemeanor charges, ensuring that the jury wouldn't hear about his previous convictions.
"It is frustrating that we're not getting (drunken drivers) off the road," Utah Highway Patrol trooper Jeff Peterson said.
"Even when they're convicted, it's no guarantee they won't continue to be a hazard to our society," UHP Sgt. Kirk Middaugh added.
Both troopers said more convictions and stricter sentences are some solutions.
Prosecutor Rod Ybarra said he'll recommend the maximum one-to-15-year prison sentence for the homicide and may ask for consecutive jail terms for the misdemeanor crimes. Third District Judge Glenn Iwasaki will sentence Bredehoft Oct. 17.
Bredehoft showed no emotion when the jury pronounced him guilty. His defense attorney said his client wasn't really surprised.
"He knew what the situation was going in," James Mickelson said.
Bredehoft, an electronics technician, testified that he was forced into the emergency lane by a green vehicle and stayed in that lane while looking for the car to see if he could merge back. He said he didn't see the parked vehicle until it was too late.
Jeffrey Nelson, an investigator hired by the defense, testified that Bredehoft's alcohol intake was not a factor in the accident. Anyone in the same situation would not have been able to avoid the accident because of poor visibility and the "hodge-podge" of confusing lights in the area, he said.
Bredehoft admitted that he went through two different alcohol-treatment programs but denied learning or knowing about the dangers of drinking and driving. He said he's only heard such warning slogans on TV.
"It's a simple, basic slogan, but it doesn't tell us why" not to drink and drive, Mickelson said during closing arguments.
Ybarra questioned the existence of the "phantom green car" and reminded jurors that some of the teens saw Bredehoft drive from the lane of travel into the emergency lane, yet no other car was around.
Prosecutor Kim Hornak told jurors that Bredehoft essentially confessed to his negligence when he said, "My God, my God. I've killed a kid."
"That statement is a confession. That's a statement of admission of what he did that night," she said. And when a doctor asked Brede-hoft what happened that night, Bredehoft said he had been driving drunk.
"He said, `I was driving drunk and I killed a kid.' Not, `a green car drove me off the road'!" Hornak said.