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Ethan man sentenced to 18 months for Feb. chase

An Ethan man was sentenced Tuesday to 18 months in prison for leading Mitchell police on a high-speed chase in February.

Justin Jonathon Hofer, 30, was arrested Feb. 8, three days after he was involved in a high-speed chase with two Mitchell police officers. After about 15 minutes, the officers called off the chase for safety reasons as speeds exceeded 100 mph and Hofer allegedly nearly struck several vehicles, ignored traffic signals and drove through a ditch to pass a vehicle.

"Your conduct in this and your prior offenses is just plain dangerous," said Judge Rodney Steele, moments before sentencing Hofer. "You're going to kill someone with this sort of conduct."

Hofer reported his vehicle stolen Feb. 6, the day after the chase occurred, and told authorities he was not driving it the night of the pursuit, court documents say. On the day of his arrest, Hofer admitted he was the driver of the vehicle in the chase and the vehicle was not stolen.

Court documents also say Hofer told police he "consumed a couple of alcoholic beverages before driving his vehicle" on Feb. 5.

He pleaded guilty July 17 to one count of aggravated eluding. Prosecutors dropped two misdemeanor charges in exchange for his plea. Hofer's case was delayed to allow him time to undergo treatment for alcohol abuse.

Hofer has a lengthy criminal record that spans more than a decade and includes four drunken driving convictions and another case of eluding law enforcement.

Hofer's attorney, Doug Dailey, of Mitchell, said Hofer's criminal history is a result of his problems with alcohol.

"He's going to put this behind him and live a productive life," he said. "He's a good man. He just struggles with alcohol." Davison County State's Attorney Pat Smith was concerned about Hofer's record but unsure whether he deserved to go to prison.

"I don't know that I'm willing to trust the safety of our community to a multiple offender," he told Steele. "I think there's plenty of reason to place him in prison, if that's what you're inclined to do."

In the end, Steele said it was Hofer's record that made the difference. "Your history just does not allow for probation," he said. "I'm sorry."