June 19, 2018
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Madison Police: Drunken driver crashes van carrying children after chase

Somerset County Jail | BDN
Somerset County Jail | BDN
James R. Labonte
By Nok-Noi Ricker, BDN Staff

MADISON, Maine — A local father who police say was driving drunk with his two young children Saturday afternoon led police on a high-speed chase and then jumped from his moving vehicle in an attempt to evade capture. The van subsequently rammed into a garage.

The children of James R. Labonte, 28, — one of whom was seat belted and the other wasn’t — were not injured in the 3:15 p.m. crash, Madison police Cpl. Joe Mitchell said Monday.

Labonte is facing nine charges, including two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

“Getting in a high speed chase with a police officer, failing to stop, driving under the influence… they are not in a safe environment,” Mitchell said of the children.

Labonte also is not licensed to drive, the corporal said.

“He has never had a driver’s license — he’s only had a permit,” Mitchell said.

The incident began when officer Eric Bronson tried to stop Labonte’s 1999 Nissan van for a traffic violation. Labonte began speeding toward his father’s house on Abnaki Road.

He pulled into his father’s driveway, which has a garage at the end, where “Mr. Labonte bailed out of the vehicle before it came to a complete stop,” Mitchell said. “When he pulled in and bailed out, [his van] hit the building.”

Bronson jumped from his cruiser, quickly chased Labonte down and placed him in handcuffs, the corporal said.

In addition to the child welfare charges, Labonte also faces operating under the influence, eluding an officer, refusing to submit to arrest, operating with a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident and two counts of driving to endanger, the corporal said.

Labonte was taken to Somerset County Jail after his arrest and was scheduled to have his first appearance in Somerset District Court on Monday.

The fact that Labonte’s children were in the van will elevate his drunk driving sentence, if convicted, Mitchell said. The children were left in the custody of their grandparents, he said. Their ages were not available.

“They’re under 16 so that is going to be an aggravating sentencing factor for the OUI,” the corporal said.

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