MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. – The fate of the second man accused of driving a bus full of Sacajawea Middle School students into Yellowstone National Park while under the influence of alcohol will not be determined for at least another week.
After a judge trial held in federal court Wednesday in Yellowstone National Park, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen E. Cole delayed issuing a verdict in the case against Jack Kane Parrent Jr.
Defense attorney Jami Rebsom objected to the judge considering Parrent’s blood-alcohol levels, claiming law enforcement agents did not advise Parrent of his right to refuse the breath tests.
In Montana and Wyoming, officers are required to inform people accused of drunken driving of their right to refuse breath tests. If drivers refuse, their license is suspended pending resolution of the court case.
But the federal prosecutor argued officers in federal jurisdictions such as Yellowstone National Park are not required to advise drivers of their right to refuse breath tests.
The judge agreed, but gave the defense attorney three days to prepare a brief to support her argument.
Parrent’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12 in an initial test and 0.091 a few hours later, according to court records. The legal limit in Montana is 0.08 for passenger vehicles but there is zero tolerance for commercial drivers in federal jurisdictions.
Parrent did not testify Wednesday, but co-defendant Kevin Leon Stark testified the two had gone out drinking and gambling in Gardiner on June 2, the night before they were arrested. Stark said the two shared about two-thirds of a pitcher of beer over dinner and consumed at least four vodka drinks and two shots of Jagermeister each.
Parrent and Stark then went back to the Super 8 Motel around 11:30 p.m., Stark testified. Parrent then told Stark he was “going to run downtown.”
Carlton Newman, the Super 8 desk clerk, testified he saw Park County deputies bring Parrent back to the motel around 2:30 a.m. Newman said he called the bus company and Yellowstone authorities at 6 a.m. when he realized Parrent was driving a commercial bus.
“It just didn’t seem right that as inebriated as this person was, that he’d be able to drive a bus,” he testified. “There was no way that in two to three hours, I couldn’t comprehend that he could be sober.”
Rebsom attempted to punch holes in the prosecutor’s case, asking why park rangers didn’t stop the drivers immediately after catching up with them. She questioned the veracity of the breath tests and other testimony.
Stark pleaded guilty last week to misdemeanor operating a commercial vehicle with a detectable amount of alcohol and will be sentenced Jan. 11.
Parrent’s charges were amended in November to DUI “rendering the operator incapable of safe operation,” driving with more than a 0.08 blood-alcohol level and operating a commercial vehicle “with a detectable amount of alcohol,” all misdemeanors.
Jodi Hausen can be reached at email@example.com or 582-2630.