Friday, July 23, 2010

15 Years for Driving Drunk, After Violating Probation

Here's the scenario, you've killed a bicyclist while driving intoxicated and you do three years in prison and you get five years probation.  Are you going to drive drunk again? 

Of course you are!  Alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful--nothing, absolutely nothing has the power to stop an alcoholic from reaching bottom and digging deeper.  Raymond Pratte (pic) of Golden Gate Estates near Naples, Florida is going to prison for 15 more years, according to the story at  Here's reporter, Aisling Swift's account:

"A 49-year-old Golden Gate Estates man who served prison time after killing a bicyclist while driving drunk was sentenced today to 15 years in prison for violating probation by driving drunk again.

'It appears to the court, Mr. Pratte, that you just don’t get it,' Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt told Raymond Louis Pratte, who was convicted of driving under the influence last week involving a Jan. 18 traffic stop while on probation for the 2007 conviction. 'You don’t understand what the problem is. You seem to have an excuse for everything.'

Hardt accused Pratte of lying during the probation violation hearing, testifying he wasn’t drunk when he killed 34-year-old Oscar Giovanny Alvarez on June 29, 2006. Pratte testified he left the scene of the crash only to call 911 and drank beer afterward because he was so 'shocked.'

But Assistant State Attorney Richard Gorman showed that wasn’t true, producing a sworn affidavit from a friend who drank with Pratte during golf and at Pelican Larry’s before the crash. 

The sentence is what Pratte faced in October 2007 for leaving the scene of a crash with death, a second-degree felony at the time. Instead, the plea bargain allowed him to serve three years in prison, followed by five years of probation. Gorman noted Pratte was charged with DUI less than a year after his release, and a month or two after an ignition interlock device was removed; it prevented him from driving drunk.

Alvarez was bicycling eastbound at about 2 a.m. on Immokalee Road, a half-mile east of Collier Boulevard, when Pratte’s van hit one of the bike’s tires, flattening the van’s tire. Pratte fled, leaving the van, but was quickly arrested.  Under the plea bargain, Pratte also pleaded to DUI .20 percent or more, a misdemeanor reduced from DUI manslaughter, a first-degree felony.

Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier had ordered Pratte to undergo a substance-abuse evaluation after his release and to follow recommendations. Gorman said the recommendation was to refrain from alcohol."
This is pro forma for the alcoholic.  Judge Hardt is actually saving this guy's life for the time being, and possibly the life or lives of other area-residents.  Tragically, the sentence may only postpone the inevitable if Pratte doesn't kill himself on Prison hooch.   

The thing is, there is a solution, for Pratte, the Hollywood starlet, for all alcoholics, they have to let go absolutely, recognize their utter powerlessness over alcohol and in my case, turn my will and my life over to the care of God.  Maybe Pratte will discover the solution during his next incarceration.  Miracles do occur.


  1. I guess I wouldn't have a problem with AA if it wasn't afforded legitimacy by the government in the way it was. Your own comments reveal it for what it is: a stalking horse for religion, and nothing more. If AA works for you because you need a higher power and a religion to pour yourself into to keep from drinking, fine. That's your business.

    What is sickening about AA, though, is that it (1) has a real success rate identical to that of people who wish to stop using drugs without AA and (2) it denies its expressly religious intentions. The literature is as conclusive as it can be that AA offers nothing special to recovering addicts. But judges across the country will force citizens to attend AA because of AA's powerful PR, even though AA is only a religious organization. Pity the free-thinker who is forced into such a patently unconstitutional position.

  2. Anon @ 6:53
    Thank you for your comment. I was listening to Talk of the Nation during the 3 PM EST segment yesterday and the author of the current Wired article that I mentioned a week or so ago in a post about a David Brooks column, was featured. One of the other guests was the medical director of Hazelden Treatment facility in Minn. (btw, I learned quite a bit about that history.) I'm sure you can access the program via their archive, if you're interested.

    I actually have been waiting for the essence of your comment, your view point is very common--and, I actually approve of your point of view.

    While "success rates" of AA can be debated there is empirical support for your viewpoint, and for the argument that as high as 75% of AAs recover from alcohoism.

    But let's define our terms, first AA is about alcoholism, while all sorts of persons with addiction issues utilize AA or NA or 12 step recovery programs, AA itself is about recovery from alcoholism. AA is not a hierarchal or centrally run organization--it embraces in the words of a commentator, yesterday, "anarchy." It went "viral" before social networking concepts were invented. Thus, it is doubtful that it can truly be quantitatively examined in a way that social scientists would be satisfied.

    But let's get to the thrust of your objection: God. My friend you are right, AA works when AAs embrace a conception of a "higher power." As many AAs say, ". . . who I choose to call God." But in reality, so what? God doesn't care if you believe in God, and you don't care, so party on. If the consequence of your refusal to embrace a "higher power," is that you are happy, healthy, and aren't killing anyone in your family or behind the wheel of a car, neither I or AA cares--so have at it.

    Courts send people to AA, because it is free, easily accessible, and it works for those who wish to recover. If the alternatives: Rational Recovery, "the Cure" or any of these were readily available then I'm sure Judges would utilize this resource. But let's consider for a fleeting moment the actual alternative: go ahead look at Mr. Pratte's picture, think about the person he killed. That his ego wrestling with the "God-thing" kept him drunk and on the road instead of an AA meeting--that was a good thing in your view? When I hear anyone say what you say, I shrug my shoulders, I don't care what you believe, but you are a foolish person if you let your ego reject a program of recovery for yourself or others who need recovery because you have a philosophical argument about the existence or non-existence of God.

  3. 6:53 here again. Your points are well taken, and of course, this is your blog. But I wanted to point out briefly that it is not trivial to many of us that one of the "steps" explicitly requires a surrender to something which we know, as certainly as we "know" anything (e.g. gravity), to be pretend: god.

    Not trying to agitate here, just saying that being ordered, under penalty of incarceration, to attend meetings which explicitly require what we know to be dangerous, stone age ideas about reality is really terrible. And unconstitutional.

  4. Anon 6:53 redux

    I really appreciate your comments and I assure you that you have not agitated me.

    Being a Bad Lawyer, I may have invoked one or two provisions of the Ohio and US Constition a half dozen times in my 28 years of bad lawyering, but I don't think that your premise--court-redered attendance at AA meetings are "unconstitutional" necessarily follows. Usually, court-ordered attendance at AA meetings is in lieu of politically-correct, non-religious incarceration--in other words you can take your pick. And while AA steps speak of God, (I read them at he start of the 5:30 meeting I attend last night) "the steps" are explicitly "suggested." The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous embraces atheism and agnosticism (with a chapter to the Agnostic.)

    But let's talk "Stone Age." It is not my goal or intention to convince you or anyone else that there is a God. The God of my understanding is ineffable and not capable of description. If you looked at the contours of my life most people would ask--how the hell is God working in his life?! The Human Race has been on this planet for a relative "blink of an eye" in geologic or cosmologic time. But we know this--perhaps, the world began in an moment with a massive explosion of light across space. There's actually a brilliant YouTube lecture on this from Lawrence Krause introduced by Richard Dawkins. I barely have the ability to absorb even this veryu simplified idea, but the thought is that a warping in fabric of what was then the beginning manifested all that we know and all that we can perceive.

    Amazingly, the earliest brilliant astronomers--predating Galileo by at least a millenium and possible several wrote a book which passed down by oral tradidtion and ultimately in written form called the Sefer Yetzirah which talks about the emanation and manifestation of light into 10 dimensions also called in ancient Hebrew the Sefirot.

    The Light is pure energy, and if you think about it we ourselves come from this light. Dr. Karuse says in his lecture, like the old song says: we are stardust. Our matter, our chemistry, and our world empirically comes from the emanation of light, stars, and finally the remarkable combination in this remarkable world. Professor Dawkins and Krause would say, through chance.

    My definition of God is as I said ineffable. The God of my definition doesn't care whether you or I believe in God, but I believe that everything manifest in this pure light and energy is an emanation of God. What we choose to do with our lives follows a certain order and each or our actions, good or bad, small or large will have a consequence. I choose to believe because my experience has shown me enough evidence that deliberate decisions consistent with my understanding of God yield positive consequences in my life and the lives of those I care about. Belief in God gives me traction to negotiate may way through a world filled with perils (most often consequences of past bad acts), and hope for the future.

    Good luck to you, regardless of your belief system. No one should suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction because of legal or religious scruples. It's just so unecessary and ofen tragic.

  5. I have to chime in here. In my many attempts to quit drinking, I tried AA. I found it all wrong for me. For one thing, like a lot of women, I had plenty of shame already, and didn't need to flagellate myself even more by detailing (over and over) my flaws, sins, and misjudgments. For another, it was very male-dominated. And kind of a pick-up scene, which turned me off.

    But to the crux of the thing. I am not religious in a conventional way, and I also felt that one was expected/compelled to Witness to Rebirth at these meetings. My spiritual life is my business, and I frankly didn't feel like going public, even anonymously, with it. I resented the theologization of my problem and its solution.

    I found what I, personally, was looking for with Women for Sobriety. WFS is not religious, but focuses on affirming the individual as competent, powerful in and of herself. Many women drink because we are disappointed at being on the low end of hierachical systems of all kinds--in my case, that includes Judeo-Christian notions of femininity. Saint Paul forbade women to preach, and bid us be subservient in all things. Many of us have tried that, and ended up on the wrong end of someone's fist. Or drowning in a bottle.

    I wish men had another option to AA as well. Because, while I know many people who have really done wonderfully through AA, like yourself, BL, I know many who just couldn't stomach the religious ideology, which IS THERE, for real. Some of us just need to feel more powerful, not powerless. For me, personally, not drinking has meant really accessing the ways I'm not powerless.

    But, as you've said--anything that works.

  6. Gayle--
    I was wondering if you were going to "chime in"--and, I'm so glad you did.

    Your observations are totally appropriate and your solution is perfect. I do think that some AA meetings do become "meat markets." particularly evening meetings. Obviously I was more acutely aware of this when I was single in my early 30s. AA callls this 13th-stepping and you are correct, it is a real problem. One of my favorite comments from teh Talk of the Nation episode yesterday was the remark that AA was designed around "anarchy," you don't like a meeting get one or two friends and start another. Here in OurTown, women-only meetings abound I think because of this problem.

    Your two other points are equally important: AA is based on a "fellowhip" of drunks sharing their experience, strength and hope," which by definition involves self-narrations that one could easily view as flagellation.

    oops, . . . . gotta fun a 15year old to the Theater...I'll continue later.

  7. BL,

    Maybe you have been a lawyer a little too long, because it seems to me that you are not looking at the "higher power" step objectively, but instead as an advocate. Put the shoe on the other foot: consider that you are given the option of either going to jail or else attending meetings for a process which may or may not work and which *requires*, in order for you to do it right, that you renounce the concept of any power higher than yourself to take full responsibility for your own problems.

    I am certain that you would howl at the top of your lungs about how unfair that situation would be.

  8. Anon. 7:01--

    I thought I had responded to your last post but my reply appears not to have made it onto the blog. I wanted to say, and I mean this respectfully: You are wrong.

    I can not imagine your scenario "maing me howl." I think you confuse incarceration verus the attendance at AA programming as equivalents when the latter is merely an option available in lieu of jail.

    In fact I greatly respect the concept of "separation go church and state." I do not believe religion should ever be used as a club on the heads of anyone. But let's be fair, AA explicitly requires nothing apart from a desire to stop drinking at AA meetings or programs--even the "desire to stop drinking" is not necessary to "open AA" meetings. Thus the premise of your hypothetical holds no water. Furthermore you misunderstand AA programming if you believe that the Steps involve somehow avoiding personal responsibility for your past actions and future behavior. The 12 Steps of AA actually involve work to admit and amend wrong doing not blame wrongs and injury on a "higher power."

    Look, I've been involved in recovery personally and professionally (not always successfully) for nearly 25 years. I know plenty of folks who do not practice religion or belive in God but utilize AA and other 12-step programs to recover from alcoholism or other addictions.

    But the focus of my point is that the objection to AA being about a "higher power" as an ostacle to recovery versus, the consequences we read about everyday: insanity, physical illness, vehicular homicide, prison--well, it seems to me that this is a no-brainer. Get your ego out of the way--spend no furhter energy in self-will run riot. And in the words of AA we will "see you along the path of happy destiny."