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Repeat DUI offender avoids prison sentence

After remarks from his public defender, the man gets 18 months of community control followed by 31/2 years probation.

Published February 1, 2006

DADE CITY - A Vietnam veteran who has battled alcoholism, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since his 1967 Army tour was spared prison Tuesday for drunken driving.

Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper sentenced Raymond Lee Smith, 58, to 18 months of community control followed by 31/2 years probation. Smith pleaded guilty in November to driving under the influence, DUI property damage and driving with a permanently revoked license - which could have netted up to 22 months in prison.

But he had a sympathetic counselor on his side. Tom Hanlon, the veteran public defender and a recovering alcoholic, told Tepper in November that sending Smith to jail would be like sending him back to Vietnam.

Smith, Hanlon said, had achieved a year of sobriety.

On Wednesday, Hanlon called the sentence "best for everyone."

"He's made it through. Vietnam was probably tougher, but he made it through a tough time," the attorney said. "We're not going to be paying . . . to put him in a prison where chances of getting help are slim to none."

Smith, who lives in Crystal Springs, is in a rehabilitation program and has a live-in companion who drives him around. A repeat DUI offender whose convictions stretch back to 1970, he will never be given a driver's license again.

"He's got as good a chance of making it as anybody I've ever seen," Hanlon said.

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:04:14]

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