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Tuesday, December 5th, 2006

St. Marys man loses driver's license for 50 years

By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA - A 19-year-old St. Marys man will spend six months in the county jail for driving drunk and crashing his car into a home while fleeing from law enforcement.
Travis Paulus, 316 Beech St., St. Marys, also was sentenced to five years community control sanctions (probation) Monday in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court by Judge Frederick Pepple. Pepple ordered Paulus to pay a total of $25,696.46 for the damage he caused to the front of the home at 626 E. Spring St. in St. Marys on July 23.
Paulus also was given a 50-year operator's license suspension and ordered to pay $5,000 in fines. He had faced a maximum five years in prison, a lifetime operator's license suspension and a $10,000 fine.
In a plea agreement in late September, Paulus pleaded guilty to fleeing and eluding, a third-degree felony, and operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI), a first-degree misdemeanor. A second OVI charge was dismissed.
No one was injured when Paulus crashed his 2000 Chevrolet Camaro into the occupied Spring Street home after fleeing from an attempted traffic stop by a sheriff's deputy at 2:47 a.m. near Washington Pike and state Route 29. Paulus was clocked traveling at 90 mph within St. Marys city limits, the sheriff's report said.
Paulus told the court his problems with the law - which includes convictions for reckless operation, underage purchase of alcohol, disorderly conduct, speeding and criminal damaging - increased after the death of his father in 2005.
Paulus' attorney, Gerald Siesel, explained that Paulus had an argument with his father just hours before the elder man suffered a heart attack and died - eight days before Travis Paulus graduated from high school.
"He spun out of control and blamed himself for his father's death," Siesel said.
Paulus admitted his father had a drinking problem and was in poor health at the time, but he still felt responsible.
"He's not coming back ... I know I have to stop punishing myself," he said.
Before sentencing, Paulus told Pepple he's learned a lot during his recent 35 days in jail.
"I don't like this place (jail), and I don't want to come back," he said.
He admitted that a majority of his problems occurred when he drank alcohol and his antics have cost him a lot more than just money.
"I wanted to pursue a degree in criminal justice" and get training in the military, he said.
Siesel pointed out the irony of Paulus' plan and added that the felony conviction would now make that dream impossible. Instead, the young man said he is considering a degree in automotive repair and would like to open his own business someday.
"How do you plan to run a business like that without an operator's license for the rest of your life," Pepple said, reminding him that his sentence could include a lifetime operator's license suspension.
"I don't know," Paulus stammered, guessing he'd hitch a ride or live close to his business so he could ride a bicycle or walk to work.
Paulus said his reputation is important to him and he doesn't want to be labeled a "troublemaker" within the community. He has continued counseling, severed friendships with those he considers bad influences, is maintaining full-time employment and has begun paying off debts.
Since being released on bond several months ago, he's been living with relatives including Bonnie Paulus of Russia who testified Monday about his positive progress.
Pepple riddled Paulus with questions about his admitted underage drinking at C&C Lounge in St. Marys, asking him about the bartenders who served him. But Paulus could not recall their names, adding he was never asked for an ID.
Before ending the hearing, Pepple assured Paulus that he is not to blame for his father's death. He also ordered Paulus to continue counseling including treatment for addiction and alcoholism, possess no weapons, consume no alcohol or drugs and not to be in the presence of minors or felons.
"Don't press your luck," Pepple said in closing.
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