Luehrs back in court; remains on probationAfter what amounted to a verbal trip to the woodshed administered by Judge Scott Needham, Ben Luehrs will remain on probation but under closer scrutiny.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
After what amounted to a verbal trip to the woodshed administered by Judge Scott Needham, Ben Luehrs will remain on probation but under closer scrutiny.
Luehrs, 19, was among the 14 Hudson High School graduates convicted of vandalizing New Richmond and their own school last June.
He pleaded guilty last March to criminal damage to property and was placed on probation for one year. Among the conditions of the probation were absolute sobriety and no criminal behavior.
But on June 24, Luehrs, who now lives in Eau Claire, was picked up by Hudson police on Vine Street and cited for driving while intoxicated. Because it was a violation of his probation, he spent a week in jail and was ordered to appear before Needham on Monday afternoon.
Needham reminded Luehrs of their discussion at his sentencing when the judge said he believed that his sentence could work. "But today I am of a different mind."
He referred to a letter from Luehrs' probation officer that detailed an underage drinking citation and a possession of drug paraphernalia charge in addition to the recent DWI citation since the original sentencing Needham said he had the authority to revoke his probation.
Needham asked Luehrs, "What are you thinking?" In response, Luehrs said he regrets his bad decisions over the past year but is close to fulfilling most of the conditions of his probation including 80 hours of community service, paying court costs and public apologies to the Hudson, New Richmond and River Falls school boards.
"But that really can't make up for the decisions I've made," said Luehrs.
Of his week in jail, Needham noted that there probably weren't a lot of men like him there and was he prepared to spend eight months there? Luehrs responded by saying he "didn't fit in there."
"But it appears that you are trying to do just that based on your behavior. You verbalize one thing but your conduct is to the contrary," said Needham.
While the judge said he considered revoking the original sentence, he opted instead to give Luehrs another chance, only on a shorter leash. He continued the probation period but instead of the original quarterly check-in with his probation officer, a more frequent schedule would be drawn up. He must also submit to random drug and alcohol testing and complete all requirements of the original sentence.
Needham said he also considered the deterrent implications of his actions and warned Luehrs about the serious consequences of any further violations. He issued the same warning to the other defendants in the case who might believe Luehrs' behavior gives them permission to "push the envelope."
"There will be no additional grace from this court," said Needham.
Luehrs told the court that he will not be returning to UW-Eau Claire next year but is considering attending Bethel University in St. Paul. He is currently a member of the Eau Claire Crush, a semi-professional football team, and is completing his community service at the Boys and Girls Club in Eau Claire.