A Santa Rosa man with 19 drunken driving convictions was spared a prison term Thursday for his latest offense, prompting an outcry from prosecutors.
William Rylan Beall, 65, whose record of drunken driving stretches back 44 years, was sentenced to six months in jail by visiting Alameda County Judge Julie Conger. But he could end up serving it in an alcohol treatment facility if bed space becomes available.
That he will be free until Jan. 21 and was not given a prison sentence provoked an angry reaction from Sonoma County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Bill Brockley.
"It's putting our community at risk. He's proven he's a danger and can't conform his behavior to societal norms," Brockley said. "He can't stop drinking and when he drinks, he drives. He puts your family, my family, and all families at risk."
Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison term as recommended by the county probation department.
"It gives a whole new meaning to home for the holidays," Brockley said.
In recommending the mid-term prison sentence, the probation department took into account Beall's clean record for the past eight years.
Until his latest drunken driving offense in July, Beall, a real estate agent who lives in Oakmont, had stayed out of trouble since 2002. But his finances and health began to deteriorate and he relapsed, said his attorney, Steve Weiss.
"He has been a strong participant in AA the last eight years," said Weiss. "Unfortunately, he reverted to very old habits."
"The judge focused on a number of things — the eight years he had been sober, his health and the best way to protect the community, which she felt was to keep him on probation for five years — keep him under close supervision and give him a six-month residential treatment program to sharpen his sobriety skills."
Beall's driver's license was suspended following his most recent arrest and he now faces a potential four-year license revocation.
"It doesn't mean he's not going to drive," Brockley said. "Based on prior arrests, he drives while his license is suspended. If he goes through a drunken driving program again, he could get his license back in nine months."
Beall's record of alcohol-related driving convictions began in 1966, according to a pre-sentencing report. He was convicted of drunken driving seven times in the 1970s, five times in the 1980s, four times in the 1990s and again in 2002, prior to his most recent conviction.
Three of the convictions involved traffic collisions. In one case, he was seen running a red light at approximately 50 to 60 miles per hour.
"It is extraordinarily fortunate the defendant has never seriously injured anyone or taken a life, given his disregard for the law and the well-being of others," Deputy Probation Officer Sierra Grohl wrote in her report.
Beall was given probation six times, required to attend frequent AA meetings and comply with Antabuse drug therapy, but he continued to drink and drive.
He was sent to prison for two years in 1998.
In addition to his 19 prior drunken driving convictions, there were six additional arrests that did not lead to convictions, according to the pre-sentencing report.
His blood alcohol in 2002 registered .22, almost three times the level at which a person is presumed too drunk to drive.