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A Bellwood man convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol five times during a little more than a decade-long span was sentenced to prison by Judge Robert Steinke Friday morning in Platte County District Court.

Nicholas C. Debower, 31, was sentenced to spend the next 30-48 months in the Nebraska Department of Correctional services after being found guilty of DUI-aggravated (.15 BAC or above) with three priors, a Class IIA felony. If convicted to the full extent of the law, the defendant could have faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. He also faces a 15-year license revocation upon release.

Before charges were amended, Debower faced charges of DUI fifth/subsequent offense, a Class II felony; and an ignition interlock violation, a Class IV felony. The Class II felony carries a maximum of 50 years in prison and the interlock violation, two years.

Court records show that prior to Debower’s August arrest, he’d previously been convicted of DUI in Platte County once in 2012, Butler County in 2013 and twice in Colfax County, in 2008 and 2016. The defendant was credited with serving 132 days in Platte County Jail and under the Good Time Law of Nebraska, could be eligible for parole in about 15 months.

On Aug. 25, Columbus Police Department Officer Santiago Velasquez was on patrol while working a DUI enforcement grant, according to a warrantless arrest affidavit. While on patrol, court records show the officer observed a 2000 Ford Mustang speeding while traveling northbound in the 1400 block of 33rd Avenue.

Contact was made with Debower, whom the officer learned was required to drive with an ignition interlock device because of previous DUI convictions. The officer, court record show, saw that the suspect vehicle was not equipped with an interlock device. He also noticed alcoholic beverages in the front-seat area.

Court records state Debower showed signs of impairment and subsequently agreed to field sobriety test maneuvers in which the officer was able to notice further impairment. A preliminary breath test yielded a result of .182, more than twice the legal driving limit after alcohol consumption.

Chief Platte County Deputy Attorney Breanna Anderson argued before Steinke that Debower wasn’t a good fit for probation, highlighting his previous issues with alcohol consumption while operating a vehicle. She also noted the defendant didn’t fully acknowledge his alcohol issues to probation while a pre-sentence investigation report was being compiled.

“It appears that he doesn’t think an evaluation or treatment would be necessary, and the state disagrees with that,” Anderson said. “This is his fifth DUI … which would indicate a severe problem with alcohol. Even though he has been able to follow the terms of probation in the past, he keeps finding himself back in the same situation.

“In this case, he was driving without the court-ordered interlock, his blood alcohol (content) was twice the legal limit and he put others on the road in danger. He doesn’t seem to be able to maintain sobriety and the likelihood of him committing a crime while on probation would be high.”

Platte County Public Defender Tim Matas argued that his client – while incarcerated in Platte County Jail – had acknowledged his issues and had been attending and in the process of completing a 12-step recovery program, attending bible studies and meeting with a priest. He also noted that while his client certainly displayed problems, that prior to his arrest, he had a steady job at Lindsay Corporation (formerly Lindsay Manufacturing) and that he’s debt free, noting that he’s able to contribute to society in a productive fashion. Matas asked the court grant his client a term of probation, which Steinke denied.

“For some reason, you are prone, Mr. Debower, to driving your vehicle after you have been drinking and are impaired,” Steinke said. “Every time you drink and drive, you jeopardize the safety of anyone who might be using their cars on the streets, as well as anyone who might be with you.”

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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