A Powell area man who led law enforcement officers on a 86-mile chase at speeds of more than 130 mph — all while reportedly drunk — will serve two months in jail, roughly 17 months of …
A Powell area man who led law enforcement officers on a 86-mile chase at speeds of more than 130 mph — all while reportedly drunk — will serve two months in jail, roughly 17 months of probation and pay more than $1,100 for his actions.
Kenneth J. Campbell, 46, managed to elude a group of pursuing Cody police officers and Park County sheriff’s deputies on an early morning in April, but turned himself in the following afternoon.
“It turned into a game of cat and mouse for me and I was having some fun,” Campbell reportedly told a Cody police officer at the time.
At a hearing in Park County Circuit Court earlier this month, Campbell was more contrite. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of fleeing and eluding police and reckless endangering, apologized and described his actions as having been out of character during a time of personal difficulty.
However, a couple of his comments frustrated Circuit Court Judge Bruce Waters.
While pleading guilty, Campbell acknowledged that his high-speed driving had placed one of the pursuing officers in danger of serious bodily injury, but added that was “because he [the officer] chose to follow.”
Judge Waters, however, forcefully rejected that suggestion at the Sept. 6 hearing.
“What do police officers typically do for a living? What are they paid to do? When somebody does something stupid and they flee, the officer’s expected to say, ‘OK, bye. Have a nice day’?” Waters asked, incredulously.
“Are you kidding me?” he continued. “The reckless endangering is the officer’s fault because he chose to follow you? No. That does not get you anywhere.”
Between that and another statement Campbell made about his split with his ex-wife, Judge Waters said Campbell’s mindset appeared to be, “it’s not my fault.”
The judge imposed a 60-day jail sentence plus 18 months of probation and $1,105 in fines and court costs, agreeing with the prosecution that Campbell’s dangerous actions “can’t be tolerated.”
The incident began around 2 a.m. in Cody, when Cody Police Officer Patrick Geraghty saw Campbell’s red Jeep go racing past Walgreens on Sheridan Avenue.
“As I watched my radar climb to an outrageous speed of 68 mph in a 25 mph zone, the vehicle passed me at [an] extreme rate of speed,’ Geraghty recounted in an affidavit.
The officer attempted to pull Campbell over, but he reportedly accelerated to speeds of 80 and 107 mph on Big Horn Avenue, on Cody’s east end.
Two vehicles had to swerve off the road to avoid Campbell and he drove in the wrong lane to avoid a couple of officers who had attempted to block the highway.
After making it east of Cody on U.S. Highway 14-A, Campbell nearly hit a sheriff’s deputy’s truck and eventually made it to Ralston, where he zipped through the town at about 80 mph.
Geraghty tried laying spike strips at the intersection of Lane 9 and Wyo. Highway 294, in the Heart Mountain area, drawing his pistol and ordering Campbell to stop.
However, “the driver completely ignored me” and kept fleeing, the officer wrote in his affidavit.
A group of officers followed Campbell through Badger Basin and the Clark area, all the way up to Dead Indian Pass. At that point, with conditions getting icy, Cody police called off the pursuit over safety concerns, ending a more than hour-long chase.
Campbell later told officers that he continued driving all the way to Crandall, where he stopped at a store and spent the night.
He then turned himself in at the Cody Law Enforcement Center around 12:30 p.m. that same day.
Campbell told police that, beyond having some fun, “he never thought to stop because he was in trouble and didn’t want to get Tasered,” Geraghty’s affidavit says; Campbell reportedly admitted he was drunk at the time of the chase.
At this month’s sentencing hearing, Campbell told the court that he’d been spending almost all his nights at bars at the time of the incident as he went through some very stressful challenges — including depression and a divorce.
“I was acting in a very abnormal manner,” he said.
However, Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric argued for a year-long jail sentence, saying Campbell’s actions amounted to “conduct that certainly cannot be tolerated.”
“The state hopes this is a one-time incident for Mr. Campbell, but certainly can’t ignore the conduct in this case given the behaviors, certainly, that he was exhibiting that night and the dangers that not only he was posing to law enforcement trying to stop him but the general public, driving those types of speeds and in that manner …,” Skoric said.
Meanwhile, Campbell’s defense attorney, Lindsay Krause Crandall, argued that her client should be credited for the 20 days he served after his initial April 27 arrest and released on probation.
She noted that her client had no prior criminal history outside of a speeding ticket and that he had turned himself in.
“This was completely out of character and I would ask the court not to punish him for the next year because of one extremely bad night, decision,” Crandall said.
Judge Waters agreed that Campbell deserved credit for turning himself in, but in imposing an additional 40 days of jail time and 18 months of probation, the judge said it was “a pretty serious thing.”
While on probation, Campbell must obey the law and stay away from alcohol and bars, among other conditions.