TRAVERSE CITY — Michael Estes’ drunken driving case ended with a judge handing down a sentence crafted to help Traverse City’s mayor “better” his life through 18 months of probation and alcohol treatment programs.
Eighty-sixth District Court Judge Michael Stepka on Tuesday praised Estes for accepting responsibility and being candid in a substance abuse assessment, but a sentence “above and beyond” was warranted based on all the facts.
“This is not really a first-offense situation,” Stepka said.
Estes, 63, was driving home from a candidate forum on Oct. 23 when a Traverse City police officer spotted his pickup truck weave through bike and turn lanes on Eighth Street. He failed field sobriety tests and was arrested on an operating while intoxicated charge, with a tested blood-alcohol content of .12, above the state’s .08 legal limit for driving.
Traverse City voters re-elected Estes as mayor on Nov. 5 — one day after pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of driving while impaired. He maintained his self-enforced public silence on specifics in the case through the 12-minute sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
“I’ve addressed the public and this court as far as the issues involved, and I really have nothing else to add, your honor,” he told Stepka.
Estes didn’t say one word outside the courtroom when asked for comment by a Record-Eagle reporter.
Stepka cited three “aggravating factors” as concerns that factored into the sentence: Estes’ consumption of alcohol before and after the candidate forum, his poor driving and, especially, the fact his vehicle strayed into an Eighth Street bike lane.
“This is still a sensitive and raw issue for the public since July 5,” Stepka said, alluding to the hit-and-run death of Traverse City bicyclist Kelly Ann Boyce. “Fortunately, there were not any cyclists in the bike lane at that time.”