Billings man pleads guilty to 13th DUI

2013-01-18T17:30:00Z 2013-01-18T23:52:59Z Billings man pleads guilty to 13th DUIBy ED KEMMICK The Billings Gazette

A Billings man who was sentenced in November for his 12th DUI conviction pleaded guilty to his 13th on Friday.

Trial had been set for Jan. 22 for William Dean Grussing, 55, but on Friday in District Judge Ingrid Gustafson's court, he changed an earlier plea of not guilty to guilty to a charge of driving drunk last June.

Sentencing was set for Feb. 12 before Judge Susan Watters. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 13 months' commitment to the Department of Corrections and five years of probation or, if he's designated a persistent felony offender, up to five years in state custody.

Grussing also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of contempt of court, which carries a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

In November, when Watters sentenced Grussing for his 12th DUI, committed in June 2011, she complained of being bound by a loophole in state law to sentence him to only 13 months in state custody despite his lengthy history of drunken driving.

Watters explained that a person convicted of DUI could be sentenced to five years in custody if he previously attended a treatment program while incarcerated for a DUI offense.

But if the defendant had not previously taken part in a DOC treatment program, as in the case of Grussing, he could be sentenced only to a standard term of 13 months, followed by up to five years on probation.

Watters called the situation "counterintuitive" and said she hoped the state Legislature would consider addressing the inconsistency in sentencing laws.

At the time of his 12th conviction, prosecutors were prevented from having Grussing designated a persistent felony offender because his most recent conviction had occurred more than five years earlier.

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