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The elderly driver who got probation

Published April 22, 2007


'His way out'; Jan. 9, 2005;

THE STORY: In 1998, Jack Bass, then 71, was driving drunk when he killed his passenger in a car accident. He was sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison, but his conviction was overturned a year later over questions about the handling of evidence. He pleaded no contest the second time around, and his lawyer argued Bass should get probation. He suffered from "senile dementia of an Alzheimer's type" caused by a lifetime of drinking or strokes he suffered in prison. Judge Richard A. Howard agreed and essentially confined the frail but unrepentant man to his home possibly for the rest of his life.

FROM THE STORY: His Southern accent rises to a high pitch when he mimics all those he thinks have wronged him.

"You know we got Judge Roy Bean, the only law west of the Pecos," Bass said of Judge Howard. "I did send him a note, though, thanking him for not putting me in jail."

. . . He said a fog is beginning to cloud his mind. He said he often gets up and forgets why, leaves cigarettes burning on tables. He buys new lighters when old ones are at his feet.

He stalls in the middle of stories saying "S---, my mind's gone."

THE REST OF THE STORY: His voice is husky and wheezy over the phone these days. "Not too good," he said. "I've got no water now. I'm out here in the country."

He said he was ripped off recently when he paid double the price for a water conditioning system, which doesn't work.

"That's the reason my health is crazy," Bass, 80, said. "These people just have run all over me, taking my money."

A neighbor drives him to the store to buy bulk groceries, he said. Otherwise, he takes his small scooter, which doesn't require a driver's license, to run errands. He crashed about four months ago and spent a month in the hospital with a broken foot.

He's as recalcitrant as ever, though he said he has forgotten much. "It really wasn't my fault," he said. "I had been drinking but wasn't drunk."

He longs for company and is chatty over the phone.

"You take it easy. What do you do again?"

Reporter, he is told.

"Reporter. What's your name?"

He writes it down.

"C'mon down and shoot the s--- out here," he said. "I'm out here all alone."

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: "I don't care if I die as long as things keep happening the way it does," he said. "I ain't going to fight it, the way things are going. I'm going to be gone soon."


mimi'll send this to web:

[Last modified April 21, 2007, 18:44:36]

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