(FOX 9) - After being arrested and quickly pleading guilty in a drunk driving wreck in northern Minnesota earlier this month, Sheriff Dave Hutchinson tells FOX 9 on Sunday he isn't going anywhere.
Hutchinson was arrested following the crash on I-94 near Alexandria on December 8. Hutchinson was injured in the crash and spent the next couple of days in a hospital bed. By the following week, he had pled guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated and saw other charges, including a count of carrying a pistol while under the influence, dropped by prosecutors.
The sheriff was quickly, and without a public hearing, sentenced on Monday, avoiding jail time as part of his plea while agreeing to a substance assessment and to abide by alcohol use restrictions.
Speaking with FOX 9, the sheriff, who is still in his first term in office, promises to use what he calls a "tragic mistake" to be a better public safety leader. He also plans to serve out his term and run for re-election next year.
"What happened that day was the worst day of my adult life," said Hutchinson. "I never want to be in that position again, but the grace of God I'm still here."
Hutchinson, still in obvious pain, sat down for a one-on-one interview inside city hall Sunday evening. He broke several ribs and suffered a concussion when he rolled his county-issued SUV near Alexandria.
Hutchinson, who had attended a statewide law enforcement conference the night of the crash, admits drinking too much at a hospitality event in the evening and then, when restless in his room, attempted to drive home.
He rolled the vehicle at approximately 2:30 a.m. with his blood alcohol found at 0.13, exceeding the legal limit of .08.
The sheriff quickly pleaded guilty to drunk driving charges and checked himself into outpatient treatment.
"I’ve never been the guy to say, ‘Ok, I’ve had enough,'" he explained. "So that's kind of where I'm going through treatment. What I think of an alcoholic, is someone who drinks every day, wakes up has a drink or every single day drinks. I am not one of those guys. But you can still have problems with alcohol and drink once a month. But if you’re binge drinking, it’s as big a problem as consuming every day. Bad decisions and alcohol has been the backbone for a long time. At this stage of my life, I don’t need it."
When asked if he received special treatment, Hutchinson says: "Absolutely not."
"I don’t know the Douglas County Attorney," Hutchinson added. "Never met him. I hired an attorney. We came up with a plan. Their county attorney and judge approved it. I was treated like everyone else. In fact, if I was not at this level, I probably would not have gotten as much attention. I chose to do this. I made a mistake. I’m facing the consequences and now will have to live with the consequences the rest of my life. Physical, mental, the embarrassment. I feel terrible… Every day, I wake up and I think, man I wish I could relive that day. But I can’t."
"I feel terrible," he continued. "Every day, I wake up and I think, man I wish I could relive that day. But I can’t."
When asked about holding himself accountable, the sheriff says he's done that.
"I have pled guilty to the charge because I was guilty. Wasting time in the court process, it happens a lot. We all need to be accountable. Police officers, deputies, the community, people who commit crimes. Right now, they are not being held accountable. They need to face tougher consequences for hurting people. Carjackings, shooting people, it’s unacceptable. What I did is unacceptable. But again, we have to get to a point where people are held accountable.