Repeat drunken driver avoids more prison time

2012-06-15T16:45:00Z 2012-06-17T17:53:04Z Repeat drunken driver avoids more prison timeBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | A 48-year-old Valparaiso man will not have to go back to prison after pleading guilty to driving drunk, eight years after causing the death of another motorist while driving intoxicated.

Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa sentenced Michael Hreha on Friday to two years of home detention and day reporting, to be followed by four years of probation.

Hreha's driver's license was suspended for 18 months, though defense attorney Larry Rogers said the period likely would be shortened by six months.

"I think that sentence is fair to everyone," Alexa said.

Rogers argued against sending Hreha back to prison because he likely would lose his $70,000-a-year supervisory job at ArcelorMittal and would be unable to continue making monthly payments of $1,250 for child support and $300 to the wife of the man he struck on June 29, 2002.

He is in the process of paying $1 million to the widow of 42-year-old Michael Simac, who was struck while sitting on a motorcycle at a traffic light on Lincolnway at Garfield Avenue in Valparaiso.

Hreha testified Friday he was at home on Nov. 27, 2010, when a former co-worker from Portage called seeking a ride after the man she was living with pulled a gun.

Hreha said he had a few glasses of wine and decided to drive to pick her up only after she said her car was curbed by police and she called several times in a panic.

"I finally made the wrong decision," he said.

Police, who were responding to the gun incident, found Hreha sitting behind the wheel of his idling vehicle in the 6600 block of Lighthouse Road. Police said he had a 0.11 blood alcohol content. The legal limit is 0.08.

Hreha told the court Friday he has given up alcohol and has been taking the anti-alcohol drug Antabuse for more than a year. He said he was under stress and on shift work at the time of his latest offense.

"It's not like I need the alcohol or anything like that," he said.

Hreha was sentenced in the fatal crash case to two years behind bars and was released from prison in December 2006. He then was placed on probation until March 2009.

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