Local man gets prison time – no drug rehab
There’ll be no drug rehab for a man who rammed police cars during a snowy chase in Grass Valley last year.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Robert Tamietti opted against drug rehab for William Hennefer.
Instead, he sentence the Grass Valley man Monday to state prison.
Hennefer, 25, had pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon to cause great bodily injury and evading an officer during a high-speed chase – much of it on Highway 49 – on Feb. 11, 2009.
The incident ended with Hennefer ramming several vehicles, including California Highway Patrol cars, and two officers firing at him.
During the sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson argued against probation for Hennefer, citing the safety of the community.
“He demonstrated a lack of judgment that treatment or a program can’t cure,” Ferguson said. “I’m sorry for his children, but the community’s interest outweighs those interests in this case.”
Hennefer’s attorney, William Walker, called the chase reckless but aberrant behavior, noting his client “generally has been a worthwhile person, not a scummy person.”
Hennefer’s escalating drug use had been the core of the problem, and treatment was the best option, Walker said.
Several people spoke on Hennefer’s behalf, including his pastor and his mother, Kathryn Chavez.
“My son’s not a criminal. He’s a drug addict,” she said. “He’s a good man – but when he gets on drugs, it’s a nightmare.”
“It’s in the best interest of the public to treat the root cause if we can,” Tamietti noted.
But Tamietti had specific concerns in Hennefer’s case. He noted the psychologist’s report did not find a personality disorder that would explain Hennefer’s actions.
“That infers more willful conduct,” Tamietti said.
Provoking law enforcement officers to the point where they fired their weapons also weighed into his decision, Tamietti added.
“I can’t ignore that aggravating fact,” he said. “We have to send a message this kind of conduct has severe consequences.”
Tamietti sentenced Hennefer to three years and eight months in prison, with almost two years credit for time served and good behavior. He also imposed restitution of more than $9,000.
Hennefer’s wife, Shanna, who attended the sentencing with their two youngest children, expressed disappointment, saying treatment would have been the best option.
“I know there’s no excuse for what happened,” she said. “But taking someone who’s young and who has a good work ethic and putting him in a negative environment (like prison), that doesn’t help him learn responsibility.”
But Grass Valley police Capt. Dave Remillard, who also attended the sentencing, said prison time was the right decision.
“I applaud Judge Tamietti,” Remillard said. “I know it was a difficult decision, but he kept the safety of the public in mind. The CHP officers put their lives on the line that night to protect the citizens. It was a miracle no one got killed or seriously injured.”
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.
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