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Former Monte police chief says he’ll get help with alcohol problems

Steven Friederich | The Vidette Senior Grays Harbor Deputy Prosecutor William Leraas stands next to former Montesano Police Chief Ray Sowers last week.Buy Photo
Steven Friederich | The Vidette Senior Grays Harbor Deputy Prosecutor William Leraas stands next to former Montesano Police Chief Ray Sowers last week.

Former Montesano police chief Ray Sowers says he’s finally going to get the substance abuse treatment he needs, utilizing a court-ordered program in Pierce County.

But, first, he’s going to spend the next couple of months in the county jail.

It’s been a downward spiral for Sowers, whose police career ended in 2010 following first-degree theft and second-degree identity theft charges from the city of Montesano for stealing public money and using it to pay for personal expenses.

After serving about six months in jail, following conviction in 2011, Sowers was convicted of a driving under the influence charge stemming from an incident in August of 2012. Then, he was arrested again on June 20, 2013 for driving under the influence again and sentenced to jail for a parole violation.

And on Jan. 10, he was arrested in Pierce County for allegedly stealing dozens of bottles of booze, stuffing them down his pants and up his coat sleeves and repeating the process multiple times at a Safeway in Tacoma.

The latest charge in Pierce County put him in violation of his parole for his first driving under the influence charge in Grays Harbor District Court and his theft charge in Grays Harbor Superior Court. He’s not yet stood trial on his second DUI. He’s not allowed to possess or consume alcohol.

Grays Harbor Superior Court Judge Mark McCauley issued a bench warrant for Sowers on Jan. 16.

And, while Sowers was in court in front of Judge Tom Copland on Wednesday, Jan. 29, he was taken into custody. Copland also ordered Sowers in jail for five days for violating his parole under the first DUI incident.

The next day, on Thursday, Jan. 30, Sowers had the rare honor of going back before Copland on his second DUI charge, and, an hour later, appearing before Grays Harbor Superior Court again.

Sowers spent his Super Bowl weekend in jail.

Steven McNeill, who serves as Sowers’ public defender in District Court, told Judge Copland last week that the former chief finally realizes he needs treatment.

Copland noted that Sowers had said that before, asking to do a deferred prosecution of his current DUI charge back in October. But he never followed through.

“Back in October when he requested it, I think he wasn’t as serious and invested in his recovery that has happened now,” McNeill told the judge. “There has been some life changing things that have occured. He’s hit rock bottom. Instead of talking about it, he really wants it now.”

“This case is starting to get a little bit old,” Copland replied, opting to set trial for the DUI in March, but leaving it open to be pushed back to June, if necessary.

Sowers was back in front of Superior Court Judge Gordon Godfrey Monday morning, chained to all of the other inmates from the county jail.

His Superior Court public defender Robert Ehrardt told the judge that Sowers admitted to possessing alcohol, but asked for a delay in sentencing pending the outcome of his planned substance abuse treatment in Pierce County.

“No,” Godfrey replied. “He will be sentenced today.”

Prosecutor Gerald Fuller had recommended a 30-day jail sentence for Sowers. That’s the same jail sentence the former chief received during his first parole violation in August.

“Your honor, this is the end of the road for me,” Sowers told the judge. “The courts in Pierce County offered me 60 days of community service and one year of community custody and then it would go away. This is the same thing that I’ve been dealing with the past three years. Sending me to jail isn’t going to do me any good. Getting me to treatment is going to do me some good. … I’ve got critical mental issues I need to deal with. I’ve lost everything.”

“You and I have been doing this game for so long, it’s ridiculous,” Godfrey told him.

“I know how to make you stop doing drugs and alcohol for the next 60 days,” Godfrey added, pointing a finger out the window where the county jail is. “Right over there. … We’re done.”

That means Sowers, who says he was to start a court-sanctioned substance abuse program on Feb. 6, will have to seek court permission to start it later. The program known as Drug Court “provides an integrated program of drug treatment, drug abuse education, and rehabilitation services,” according to the county’s website. It’s similar to a program run by Grays Harbor County. But that program is spearheaded by the Prosecutor’s Office mainly for non-violent, first-time offenders. The Pierce County program is run by a drug court circuit judge.

Sowers, 50, had been accused of stealing a total of 51 bottles of liquor from a Safeway in Tacoma, valued at $1,537. A witness spotted him in the parking lot. He was caught while pushing his out-of-gas car to a gas station. He faces Theft in the Second Degree in Pierce County Superior Court.

Meantime, Sowers still owes money to the city of Montesano on his original theft charge.

Grays Harbor Clerk Cheryl Brown says that Sowers was ordered to pay back $17,427 in restitution and $850 in fines. Since convicted, he’s paid $950 to the county. The most recent payment was $50 on Nov. 20, 2013.

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