Reported by: Cristina Flores
Friday, Aug 28, 2009 @11:27pm CST
Acting as his own attorney, Dell Schanze told Judge Keith Storey of Saratoga Springs, that “it would be a mistake” to send him to jail and that he would “rather run off the road and kill myself than hurt someone else” still, the judge sentenced Schanze to 10 days in Jail for reckless driving. Schanze was also ordered to pay a $550 dollar fine, plus another $120 dollars for seatbelt violations involving himself and some of his children. As he walked to a police car in handcuffs, a smiling Schanze said “Oh well, that’s the way it goes.”
The charges stem from an incident last April, when State Investigator and certified police officer Michael Paletta was driving home on Redwood Road in Saratoga Springs. Paletta was heading south when he spotted a car headed in the opposite direction on the same road. Paletta said the car was “abruptly shaking back and forth in a jerking motion.” Paletta said when the car got within 100 feet of his vehicle, the driver made the swerving motion again. That scared Paletta and caused him to run his own car off the road fearing he might crash with the swerving car if he didn’t get out of the way. Paletta then made a u-turn, followed the car and pulled it over. That’s when he realized Schanze was behind the wheel. Paletta testified that when asked why he was swerving, Schanze said he was sorry, but did it because he was entertaining his kids who were in the car with him. Paletta said he became further concerned when he realized two of his children were sharing the front seat and one seatbelt. Schanze’s wife and two other children were in the back seat but were properly buckled. Schanze was warned that the case would be sent on to the prosecutor’s office to be screened, but he was allowed to drive home with the warning.
“If you felt I was such a danger to society, why didn’t you take me off the street?” said Schanze to Paletta during cross examination. Schanze said that the officer allowed him to drive home after all that, proved the officer didn’t think his actions were reckless. But Paletta later explained to the court that with a reckless driving infraction, officers legally have the option to either arrest on the spot or send the case to the prosecutor. Paletta said he chose not to arrest Schanze on the spot because he didn’t want to inconvenience Schanze’s children and wife by arresting him then impounding their car – which was a rental.
During the trial, prosecutors presented a news clip from a Channel 2 News story, in which Schanze said, “Anybody who has kids, you know, you just rock the car back and forth the kids go back and forth in their seat and they're all happy.” The story aired before the case went to trial.
During his arguments Schanze admitted to swerving, but said had his children been in danger, his wife would have objected to such maneuvers. Plus, he did it when other cars weren’t around. He insisted Paletta had passed him when he made the swerving motion and never crossed the center line. He told the judge he is a loving person who cares about others and disputed prosecutor Lindsay Jarvis’ allegations that he had disregard for the safety of others including his own children.
Judge Storey said “It’s clear to me you are guilty of everything.” The judge added, “I don’t think you are a danger all the time, but for a short time in Saratoga Springs, you were.”