Munster man's driving record a license to kill?

2012-01-24T20:00:00Z 2014-03-20T19:25:06Z Munster man's driving record a license to kill?By Susan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

MUNSTER | When Michael Temores moved to Munster from Highland a few years ago, Highland police were so concerned they notified the town's police.

By then, Temores, now 24, had racked up a driving record with so many violations, Highland police had been moved to turn to the Lake County prosecutor's office for help.

As they were asked, prosecutors directed Temores' tickets to a different court to keep them from being dismissed.

However, that precaution and other such efforts by police didn't stop Temores from allegedly driving drunk Dec. 30, resulting in the death of a Lansing man.

Temores is charged with 18 criminal and traffic offenses in the accident that killed 61-year-old Fred Skafgaard.

Court records show those counts are added to more than 100 driving violations, many of which were dismissed over the years. Those violations include speeding, driving while suspended, driving without a seat belt or insurance, disregarding stop signs and watching television while driving.

More serious charges include two operating while intoxicated counts, one of which was pleaded down to reckless driving, and the other reduced to a misdemeanor.

At the time of the December accident that killed Skafgaard, Temores was driving on a 180-day restricted license that limited his driving only to and from work.

Skafgaard's death was no surprise to Highland police Cmdr. George Georgeff.

"Law enforcement did whatever it could to keep him off the street," Georgeff said. "Once he moved out of our town, he pretty much stayed clear of Highland."

But Georgeff said Temores made the rounds, garnering a reputation among local law enforcement.

"They're all talking about this," Georgeff said. "Their feeling is this should never have happened."

Georgeff said had the courts not dismissed a violation of Temores' probationary license in 2003, when he was 15, he would not have been able to obtain a driver's license until he was 21.

Instead, when he'd be stopped, his driving license showed it was valid.

"Our officers were stopping him on a routine basis," Georgeff said.

Georgeff said Temores' record was one of the most extreme he's seen in his 30 years as an officer.

The four pages of cases against Temores also surprised Lake Superior Court Judge Jesse Villalpando, one of three judges who saw Temores in their courts. The others are Judge Julie Cantrell, who declined to comment, and Judge Sheila Moss, who did not return a phone call.

"You don't see something like this every day. That's for sure," Villalpando said.

He said the cases in his court had been all minor infractions.

"Some of them were paid in the clerk's office," he said. "Others, dismissed by the state of Indiana, which the court is obligated to approve."

Temores' current attorney, Steven Mullins, of Merrillville, did not return phone calls, but a past attorney of Temores, Randy Godshalk, of Hammond, said prosecutors did fight some proposed pleas in Highland, which were taken to court.

"He got a bad reputation with Highland," Godshalk said. "At one point a supervisor with Highland police ordered all officers issuing tickets to him to appear in court. They had no alternative."

Godshalk said Temores' record is rare.

"This is one person," Godshalk said. "It's an unfortunate situation. It's tragic, true enough, but it doesn't happen very often, fortunately."

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said it's possible the plea bargaining process played a role.

"I've never seen anything as bad as this," Carter said of the number of cases involving Temores.

"If he had two or three charges pending, he might have pleaded to one," Carter said, adding his office will be exploring the matter.

"If a judge is not satisfied with a plea, we urge them to reject it and set it for trial," he said.

On the other hand, Carter indicated the system can only do so much.

"If (Temores) still drives on a suspended license, the court can't take the keys away from him," he said. "He's acting in defiance. It's like going down the street shooting at someone."

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