I-Team: Repeat offender? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Repeat offender?

Justin Ellis Justin Ellis

A deadly wreck that rocked the small town of St. Francisville once again has people talking. The driver of that vehicle is facing his 2nd offense DWI, but he may only be charged with his first offense.

"Very traumatic. It's still talked about even 9-10 years later," said West Feliciana Parish Sheriff Austin Daniels.

August 4, 2004: it's a day still fresh on the minds of many in St. Francisville. Three teenagers were killed after a deadly crash on Highway 61. All were passengers in a car Justin Ellis, then 17, was driving. One of the victims was his own sister. Two of the three families chose not to press charges so prosecutor Sam D'Aquilla proceeded with trying to charge him with one count.

"He didn't have any alcohol or drugs in his system so he was not charged with vehicular homicide," said D'Aquilla.

The DA then pursued a negligent homicide charge. That too did not hold up because Ellis confessed to falling asleep behind the wheel and hitting a guardrail.

"You have to prove that he acted below the reasonable standard of care of a prudent person, and the courts of appeal have said falling asleep at the wheel is not below the standard of care for a prudent person," said D'Aquilla.

Ultimately, Ellis was charged with one count of reckless driving. His 90-day jail sentence was suspended and Ellis had to serve out a two-year probation with the terms being not driving anywhere but to and from work or for an emergency.

"However his probation was revoked at a later date," said D'Aquilla.

It revoked when he was found driving around the Mall of Louisiana. Then in May of 2006, West Feliciana deputies pulled over Ellis for swerving through lanes and also charged him with his first offense DWI. But D'Aquilla said Ellis' blood-alcohol level was below the legal limit which reduced the charge.

"His blood-alcohol level was .008, which is well below the .02 standard so it was amended to reckless operation, and he pled guilty to that," said D'Aquilla.

Then on January 4th, deputies pulled over Ellis again charging him with a number of charges including his 2nd offense DWI. But because his first DWI did not hold up in 2006, D'Aquilla said this will now be his first.

"We're going to treat him as severe as we can. DWI's are a growing concern for our office especially in light of what happened in East Feliciana Parish last summer," said D'Aquilla.

The DA tells 9News because Ellis was not convicted of a DWI back in 2006, this will now be his 1st offense.

Ellis is out of jail on a $40,250 bond. His arraignment is set for February 21st.

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