Photo via Zoom - Outgoing St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough discusses his treatment progress during a hearing Tuesday on his bond violations related to a May drunk driving arrest. McDonough pled guilty to an Aug. 7 bond violation, with the other bond violation charges dropped in the case.

McDonough pleads guilty to August bond violation

Other bond violation charges dropped

CENTREVILLE — Outgoing St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough pled guilty Tuesday in St. Joseph County 3B District Court to an Aug. 7 bond violation related to a drunk driving arrest in May.

With his plea, other charges in relation to McDonough’s bond violation case will be dropped, including a charge for an alleged violation on Sept. 15. Originally, Tuesday’s proceeding, held via Zoom teleconference in front of visiting Kalamazoo County District Court Judge Vincent Westra, was going to be a hearing on the bond violation charges. However McDonough waived his right to a hearing and entered the plea.

The plea comes after McDonough pled not guilty to two charges of bond violations during an arraignment hearing Sept. 17. Part of McDonough’s bond conditions related to his May arrest in Lockport Township for drunk driving were that he cannot purchase, possess or consume intoxicants or controlled substances nor visit a retailer whose primary business is the sale of alcohol.

According to police investigation documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Aug. 7 violation stems from an incident witnessed by Three Rivers City Manager Joe Bippus. According to the report, Bippus told a Three Rivers Police Department detective he saw McDonough sitting on the ground in McDonough’s driveway with his wife and son, “dabbing a laceration on his forehead with a paper towel.” Bippus offered his assistance, but McDonough’s wife declined.

Bippus then left, and as he was leaving, noticed McDonough laying down on the ground. A short time later, Bippus returned and noticed more vehicles in the driveway, and an ambulance from the Three Rivers Fire Department came to the residence. The first responders who arrived on the scene told the detective that the family and McDonough himself admitted to drinking. McDonough admitted in court Tuesday to having consumed alcohol on that day.

Following the plea, Assistant Attorney General Gregory Townsend asked the court to sentence McDonough to an inpatient treatment program.

“I believe he has a very serious alcohol problem when the defendant violates the court’s orders,” Townsend said.

Michael Hills, McDonough’s attorney, asked the court to delay sentencing “for a period of time,” due to McDonough’s progress with both intensive outpatient (IOP) program, a 12-step program, and his compliance with a sobrietor.

“My client, after this violation, did go into inpatient. He was trying to get in before this bond violation occurred, but he was able to get into inpatient subsequent to that, has been released, he is on IOP, and is currently moving along in that program as well as 12-step work, and he is compliant with the OCC sobrietor requirements,” Hills said.

McDonough said he is doing IOP three times a week, has plans to go to support group meetings seven days a week, and has started 12-step work. Westra commented that he assumes “the first step has been met,” which McDonough agreed with.

“I am certainly powerless over my addiction to alcohol, and obviously I’m sitting here in front of you and have gone through inpatient treatment and have really destroyed the lives of the people I care about most,” McDonough told Westra. “My life is unmanageable, and I’m yielding myself to my higher power and trying to regain sanity in my life, and just taking everything one day at a time and trying to work with the court and work with my doctors and everything else to get myself physically and mentally healthy so that I can regain what I had previously in my life.”

Westra said accountability and treatment are two major components in dealing with addiction and people who find themselves in the criminal justice system because of addiction, referencing his having presided over Kalamazoo County’s sobriety court for nearly 10 years. Westra said while he understood Townsend’s recommendation for an inpatient program, he acknowledged McDonough’s compliance so far with remaining alcohol free and following through with treatment and support group requirements.

With that said, however, Westra said there “will be accountability.”

“The degree of accountability is going to be determined by how Mr. McDonough goes forward in terms of treatment,” Westra said. “Obviously, further violations are going to certainly impact the decision the court makes when we do sentencing on the bond violation.

“Mr. McDonough, you are on the path. Stay on that path, keep up with the step work, and certainly the IOP reinforces the inpatient that’s already been done,” Westra continued. “I’m not going to order that you go inpatient at this point, but understand that if there are further violations, the court will be looking to determine what you did to address that. The accountability will come, but I want to see where you are at that time.”

A sentencing date on the bond violation, as of press time, has not been set. McDonough still faces trial on the drunk driving charges on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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