BARRE — A Granite City man who was sentenced this week for two felony convictions — his third and fourth — for driving under the influence won’t be going back to jail if he keeps on doing what he’s been doing for the last 10 months.
Unwilling to upset a “highly structured” support system that appears to be working for 39-year-old Eric W. Brassard, Judge Mary Morrissey this week sought to craft a sentence that wouldn’t jeopardize the progress Brassard has made, while acknowledging the seriousness of his crimes and guarding against a potential relapse.
Though Deputy States Attorney Ashley Hill argued jail time — two years to serve — was warranted, Morrissey wasn’t persuaded that should be the starting point in Brassard’s sentencing discussion.
Morrissey said Brassard seemed to be benefiting from a stable, structured, supervised place to stay at the Reentry House run by Washington County Mental Health Services. She noted Brassard had a job, a healthy hobby, has sought treatment and counseling, was considered a “leader” at home and had volunteered in the community.
“He (Brassard) has done everything you want somebody to do after they have engaged in behavior that is criminal and for which the underlying issues can be identified,” Morrissey said.
“It’s hard for the court to see, in this particular scenario, how putting Mr. Brassard back in jail either benefits him directly or really benefits the community,” she added.
At the same time, Morrissey acknowledged Brassard was on probation after pleading guilty to his third DUI — an offense that involved inhalants and ended in an accident in October 2016 — when he was arrested for his fourth DUI last March.
“It can’t be minimized how serious these offenses are and the court does have concerns about Mr. Brassard’s ability to maintain sobriety in the long term,” Morrissey said. “He’s had success before.”
Brassard’s first DUI conviction dates back to 2000 and his second was in 2003. Morrissey said two more back-to-back offenses — one in 2016 followed by the one last year — were cause for concern, but she feared starting with jail time would be counterproductive given Brassard’s current situation.
After hearing from Hill, an apologetic Brassard and Carl Stewart, who offered a glowing assessment of the time Brassard has spent at Reentry House, Morrissey imposed what she characterized as a “hybrid sentence.” It’s one, she warned, that could lead to jail time if Brassard slips up, but would otherwise involve remaining under the supervision of the state Department of Corrections.
“I have great confidence if he (Brassard) starts to stumble it will be caught immediately,” she said, warning Brassard he shouldn’t expect any leniency if he experiences a lapse in judgment.
“My goal in structuring it this way is to give you every incentive to comply with supervision,” she said.
Morrissey imposed a sentence of 45 days to five years with credit for the 45 days Brassard has served for his fourth DUI. She also imposed an additional sentence of 18 months to three years all suspended except for 60 days of pre-approved service on a corrections work crew.
Morrissey said a bad choice by Brassard would lead to extended jail time.
“If he does everything he’s supposed to do, the second sentence never comes into play,” she said.
Morrissey told Brassard she was hopeful he would build on the “tremendous progress” he had made since his last arrest.
“I don’t think it makes sense right now to pull you back into the facility to serve more time,” she said, urging him to take advantage of the opportunity.