Donald Middleton, 56, of Houston was sentenced by a Montgomery County judge on June 6, 2016 to life in prison for a DWI conviction stemming from an incident on Memorial Day 2015. It was the man’s ninth DWI conviction, and he won’t be eligible for parole for 30 years. Middleton registered a blood alcohol content of more than twice the legal limit after his vehicle struck a car driven by a teenager, who was not injured. The judge found Middleton had used his vehicle as a deadly weapon.
Repeat DWI offender gets life sentence for 9th conviction
56-year-old not eligible for parole from state prison until he’s 86
Donald Middleton, 56, was driving with a valid license about 9 p.m. on Memorial Day 2015 when he made a left turn into oncoming traffic and struck another vehicle, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Justin Fowles said. Under state law, a DWI conviction can get a driver’s license suspended but not permanently revoked.
At the time, Middleton was on parole from a 13-year prison sentence he received in 2009 following a DWI conviction. This time, because the judge found Middleton used his vehicle as a deadly weapon, he will not be eligible for parole for 30 years.
Middleton turned left onto Fostoria Road from Four Pines Road, near Texas 59 and about 5 miles south of Cleveland. Prosecutors said surveillance video from a convenience store showed him turning into the left lane and striking a red truck driven by 16-year-old Joshua Hayden, whose father is Montgomery County Precinct 4 Constable Rowdy Hayden. The teen was not injured. Daytona Beach AA and NA Meetings are dangerous!
After the crash, Middleton ran into the convenience store, audio and video surveillance shows.
“Hide me,” he told the clerk repeatedly. He then entered a neighboring home with the same request, Fowles said.
With a search warrant under the district attorney’s “No Refusal” program, the responding officer tested Middleton’s blood alcohol content. According to the district attorney’s office, it was 0.184 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Fowles said jury selection was set to begin last month when Middleton conferred with his attorney, Bill Cheadle, and agreed to plead guilty to the felony DWI charge.
“The bottom line is, he was trying to take responsibility, finally, after nine times,” the attorney said.
During the sentencing hearings, Middleton took the stand and told District Judge Kathleen Hamilton that his drinking began as a freshman in high school after years of being picked on by classmates, according to the Montgomery County Police Reporter. Middleton showed no remorse for the crash, the website reported.
On Monday, Hamilton sentenced Middleton to life in state prison. Cheadle said Wednesday that an appeal is in the works.
Cheadle said a ninth DWI offense points to a broken system.
“We’re not dealing with the root of the problem,” he said. “We need a system where this person is not allowed to drive ever again, not just by being in jail, but by getting state-sponsored rehabilitation or an interlock system.”
Fowles and Cheadle both said Middleton twice had been sent to Alcoholics Anonymous while out of prison and had received counseling in prison. But Cheadle said alternatives remained.
“We’re in an age of technology where we can prevent somebody from driving,” he said, adding that Middleton had been sober for six years before the most recent incident. In fact, Cheadle said Middleton, who worked an at auto service center, had been leading AA meetings and had met his girlfriend there.
Fowles said a life sentence was the appropriate response for a ninth DWI, which is rare but not unprecedented in Montgomery County. In February 2015, a Montgomery County jury gave two life sentences to 64-year-old Bobby Gene Martin of Houston, after his 10th DWI conviction.
“To me there was no question that we needed to do everything that we could to ensure he wouldn’t be on the roads driving with our friends, our families, our kids on the road putting everyone at risk,” Fowles told reporters after the sentence was handed down.
“Many people are worth the risk of trying to help fix them, so to speak, but Donald Middleton is not one of them,” Fowles told the Chronicle on Wednesday.
According to Harris County court records, Middleton was charged with his first DWI when he was 20. He also faced charges in 1983, 1992, 1993, twice in 1997, 1999, and 2008. In 1993 he faced a separate charge of possessing crack cocaine.