A 47-year-old local man who stood accused of his eleventh charge of Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) late last year has reached a plea deal to avoid a trial and reduce the charges.
Morris J. Bearhart, 47, Webster, was arrested in the early morning hours on Friday, Dec. 18 in Webster, after a Burnett County Sheriffs’ deputy saw him driving his truck at 45-mph in a 30-mph zone, while driving in the wrong lane of traffic.
He was stopped while pulling into a local tavern, and gave several confusing answers to the deputy during the stop. He was also confused about several things, smelled of intoxicants and gave the officer his employee ID when asked for his license. When asked where he was coming from, Bearhart said he was coming from “Way south,” without clarifying.
As the deputy went back to the squad to do a license and registration check, it came back that Bearhart had ten previous convictions for OWI, with the most recent being in 2013 in Burnett County, but with convictions in both Wisconsin and Minnesota, going back to 1996.
As the deputy returned to the truck a few minutes later, Bearhart had fallen asleep. When he was awakened, he was again confused, and when he exited the vehicle, dropped his wallet, stumbled and told the deputy he had six drinks, but that they were “just beer” and that he “wasn’t gunna go anywhere.”
The deputy performed field sobriety tests, which Bearhart did not pass, failing to complete some of the testing, at all, such as counting backwards and the like.
Bearhart had a restriction on his driver’s license that means he cannot register over a .02% blood alcohol concentration, due to his many past OWI convictions. However, when he was given a portable breath test, he registered at over ten times his legal level, and over twice the legal limit for all drivers.
Bearhart refused a blood test, but a search warrant was obtained a few hours later and was conducted, although the criminal complaint does not include the BAC level they found.
He was later charged with felony OWI (11th), as well as lesser driving infractions of operating left-of-center and speeding.
Bearhart’s case was delayed slightly due to the pandemic and other issues within the county prosecutorial system, but he appeared with his attorney before Judge John Anderson on Monday, Oct. 25, where they went over details of a plea deal reached with prosecutors to avoid a trial.
Under the plea deal, Bearhart agreed to plead guilty to a somewhat lesser felony count of OWI (7,8 or 9), or a Class F felony, which has a maximum sentence of up to 12.5 years in prison and up to/or including a $25,000 fine. His other charges were dismissed but will be read-in for sentencing.
His original OWI (11th) carried a possible 4-to-15 year prison sentence and up to/or including a $50,000 fine.
He pleaded guilty to the amended charges and had previously been free on a $2,500 cash bond, but after his guilty plea, he was taken into custody at the Burnett County Jail, which is where he will reside until his sentencing hearing, which is slated for January 24, after the state conducts a pre-sentence investigation.