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19-time DUI offender gets 3-year prison term


A Santa Rosa man who violated probation by possessing alcohol two days after receiving leniency in his 19th drunken driving conviction was sentenced Thursday to three years in state prison.

William Ryland Beall, 65, stared in apparent disbelief as Judge Julie Conger rejected his argument for continued release and imposed the punishment sought by prosecutors.

Conger said she once had been willing to consider Beall's effort at sobriety but could no longer after a search of his home turned up a chilled bottle of white wine and three airline bottles of liquor.

"There is absolutely no reason . . . to grant another chance at probation," Conger said.

The white-haired Beall, who said he had arranged for a friend to dispose of the alcohol, raised his hands in apparent surprise before he was led away by court deputies.

Under state sentencing laws, he is eligible for release in 18 months.

Beall's drunken driving history goes back 44 years, beginning in Santa Rosa in 1966. He was sent to state prison for two years in 1988 but spent the past eight years without a DUI and had reportedly quit drinking.

In July, Beall fell off the wagon and was picked up outside a 7-Eleven at 2 a.m. after nearly colliding with a parked car.

On Dec. 16 he went before Conger, who allowed him to remain free until she could consider placing him in a residential alcohol treatment facility. At the time, probation officials recommended two years in prison.

The decision drew an angry response from prosecutors, who said Beall was putting the community at risk.

Two days later, probation officials and police made an unannounced search of Beall's Oakmont home and found the alcohol, a violation of the terms of his probation. The wine was in the refrigerator and the small bottles were in a kitchen cupboard.

Robert Lougee, a county probation official who took part in the Dec. 18 search, testified all the bottles were sealed and Beall was not drinking.

Beall didn't try to hide the wine and explained a friend was coming the next day to pick it up, Lougee said. He didn't dump it out because he didn't want anyone to think he drank it, Lougee testified.

Beall's lawyer, Steve Weiss, called his client's actions reasonable. He said Beall gave probation officials his friend's name and phone number, but they didn't to call him to confirm the story.

Any violation, Weiss said, was not willful.

"This is not the sort of violation that should result in the imposition of a three-year prison term," Weiss said.

But Chief Deputy District Attorney Spencer Brady said Beall should have been clear about the rules, especially considering his past experience on probation. He said there was no evidence that anyone was coming to take the wine. The defense did not produce a witness.

"He certainly had every opportunity to dispose of the alcohol," Brady said.

Conger agreed, saying Beall could have called his probation officer for help. She questioned whether the wine was stored in the refrigerator to get it ready for consumption.

Before issuing her decision, Conger denied a third motion from the district attorney's office to have the case heard by another judge.

Also, she pointedly corrected prosecutors for labeling her a visiting judge from Alameda County. She said she is retired from that bench and has been assigned by the state chief justice to handle cases in Sonoma County.