Saturday, June 11, 2005
Former State Official Pleads Guilty to DWI Charge
An investment banker who served time in prison for a vehicular homicide conviction has pleaded guilty to a drunken driving charge.
Paul Donisthorpe, 49, of Albuquerque, pleaded guilty Friday to first-offense driving while intoxicated, court records show.
Donisthorpe, a former member of the state Commission on Higher Education, originally was charged with second-offense aggravated DWI on Jan. 5, according to Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court records.
The charge was dropped down to first offense at a Jan. 21 hearing and the aggravated portion was dropped.
Donisthorpe was arrested Jan. 5 after he crashed into a car in front of him and caused a three-car pileup at an Albuquerque intersection, court records show.
A breath test showed his blood-alcohol content exceeded 0.16 percent more than twice the legal limit in New Mexico, a criminal complaint alleged.
Prosecutors filed a motion to have the charge amended back to a second offense, said Gary Cade, chief deputy for the district attorney's metro court division.
"But there's no case law in New Mexico that addresses that,'' he said. "He pleaded to the charge (Friday) and we never got to the motion.''
Donisthorpe pleaded no contest to a vehicular homicide charge in 1991 and was sentenced to two years in prison.
Cade said it was his understanding that a DWI charge was attached to that case.
"If that's your basis for a prior DWI, there's just no case law that gets at that,'' he said.
State district court records do not show a DWI charge against Donisthorpe from the vehicular homicide case.
Donisthorpe was driving a pickup truck that hit a car driven by Jillian Ann Howard, an Albuquerque middle school teacher, who died shortly after the Jan. 9, 1990, crash in Albuquerque.
Glen Krause, Howard's son, said he "went nuts'' when he first learned that Donisthorpe had pleaded to a first offense DWI on Friday.
"It makes me think the whole system is kind of a joke,'' Krause said. "It's just hard to believe that in a high-profile situation like this that he wouldn't have been dealt with more harshly.''
Gov. Bill Richardson appointed Donisthorpe to the commission in 2003. Donisthorpe resigned June 16, 2003 three days after he was sworn in.
Two days after Donisthorpe's resignation, Richardson said convicted felons no longer would be appointed to state boards and commissions.
In 1981, Donisthorpe was arrested for DWI but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving before a Farmington judge. He paid a $100 fine and agreed to undergo alcohol screening.