EC man gets new trial for ninth OWI and hit and run

Oct. 5—EAU CLAIRE — A judge has ruled that an Eau Claire man will receive a new trial because of jury prejudice for a drunken driving and hit-and-run case.

Eau Claire County Judge Emily Long ruled recently that Robert H. Booth's previous conviction for ninth-offense drunken driving and hit-and-run attended vehicle must be vacated. Long said the jury was prejudiced toward Booth based on what they heard during the trial.

Booth, 65, 2507 S. Hastings Way, will receive his new trial on March 28 and 29.

Long's ruling was the result of a motion filed by defense attorney Katherine Cook, who claimed jurors during the May trial inadvertently heard a videotaped interview where Booth told a police officer he was on parole.

Two jurors told defense counsel following the trial that the jury did indeed hear Booth's statement that he was on parole and that they discussed it during deliberations, Cook said.

Booth's prior drunken driving convictions were not introduced during the trial. But because Booth's admission to the officer in the videotaped interview that he was on parole was heard by the jury, it could be inferred that "because Mr. Booth had previously committed (drunken driving) offenses, he likely committed this one," Cook said.

Cook asked Long to declare a mistrial and vacate the judgement finding Booth guilty.

According to the criminal complaint:

Eau Claire police responded to a hit-and-run crash at 3:40 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in the 2100 block of South Hastings Way.

The striking vehicle was a white sedan that was last seen traveling south on Hastings Way.

The drivers of the two victim vehicles said they were eastbound on Pleasant Street and were stopped at the intersection with South Hastings Way.

The white sedan came up from behind and struck the second vehicle, which then was pushed into the rear of the first vehicle.

The driver of the white sedan, later identified as Booth, talked to the other two drivers for a short time and then drove off.

The front bumper and license plate of Booth's vehicle were at the crash scene, which led police to Booth's residence.

Booth admitted to drinking at a tavern, driving and then being involved in a crash.

When asked why he drove away from the crash scene, Booth said "I felt like I had to." He said he didn't want to go to prison.

Booth needed assistance to get on his feet and walk. An odor of intoxicants could be detected on his breath. It took him three to four minutes to put on a slip-on style shoe.

Booth said there are now too many coffee shops near where the crash occurred. The crash was caused because there is now too much traffic in that area, he said.

Booth said he was probably going to go to prison for five years.

Booth failed field sobriety tests. He was taken to Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire for a blood draw.

After checking with state Department of Transportation records, it was determined Booth's driving status was revoked because of a prior drunken driving offense.

He was also required to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle he owned or operated.

Booth was previously convicted of drunken driving in May 1992, March 1993, October 1994, November 1998, June 2001 and May 2005 in Eau Claire County, in December 2014 in Polk County, and in December 2013 in Chippewa County.