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."