GLOBE — Ernest Feight of Snowflake pleaded guilty to driving a school bus while impaired with a Snowflake girls soccer team on board Oct. 1, 2020. They were coming home from a 6 p.m. game in Prescott.
On March 15, he submitted a signed plea agreement to the court.
According to reports, once Feight drove the bus to Star Valley, he stole alcohol from a convenience store there, then drove about two miles to the parking lot of a grocery store in Payson before stopping and getting arrested. He was charged with 22 counts of child abuse, Class 3 Felonies, two count of endangerment, Class 6 felonies, two DUI related misdemeanors, and shoplifting, say court records. He was employed at the time by a company that provides school bus services to the Snowflake Unified School District.
Feight changed lawyers during the case. He was initially assigned to a court appointed attorney and posted a $25,000 bond which secured his release. Later in the case, Ronald D. Wood of Show Low substituted in as counsel. The indictment was amended along the way as well, apparently to charge Feight with felony, aggravated DUI for driving while impaired with a child under 15 years of age in the vehicle. During the pendency of the case, Feight entered a rehabilitation facilty.
The plea agreement was filed in court on March 15 and it calls for Feight to plead guilty to two charges, the felony aggravated DUI and one count of child abuse, the Class 3 Felony. All the others charges will be dismissed. The court has a broad range of sentencing options for Feight. The particular type of DUI he pleaded to does not carry mandatory prison time like most felony DUI’s but does mandate 10 days in jail, nine of those days can be suspended, meaning Feight won’t have to serve nine of the 10 days, if he completes substance abuse treatment, which it appears he already has, in rehab; that is, if the court allows his treatment there to count as fulfilling the mandatory counseling requirements of the DUI laws.
The Class 3 Felony carries a prison term of between two and 8.75 years. The agreement rather ominously states that “Probation is available, but not guaranteed.” The court, the Hon. Timothy Wright of the Gila County Superior Court will hand down the sentence sometime next month. The agreement stated that the 56-year-old Feight has no prior DUIs or felony convictions, and that should help the defense argue for a sentence of probation and avoid prison. However, Arizona law says that a person can be sentenced to serve one year in the county jail, not prison, as a term of felony probation.
He will also be sentenced to pay all the fines, fees and assessments that are mandatory in a DUI case, approaching about $3,000. Once he is sentenced, his $25,000 bond will be exonerated, or released. If he put up cash for the bond he’ll get it all back unless he allows the money part of his sentence to be deducted from that. By contrast, if he posted a commercial bond, the terms are typically 10% in cash and the pledge of property like a house or vehicles for the balance of the bond. The liens or holds on his property will be released; but the bondsman typically keeps the 10% as their fee.
Feight’s sentencing date is not yet listed in the court’s electronic docket.