TRAVERSE CITY — Cynthia Stowe’s tearful apology and admission that she has an alcohol problem couldn’t keep her out of jail.
Stowe, 52, of Florida, is the ex-wife of former Grand Traverse County Probate Court Judge David Stowe. Two years of alcohol-fueled run-ins with the law ended this week when 86th District Court Judge Michael Stepka handed down a year-long jail sentence on a second-offense drunken driving charge.
“I don’t see how probation would work in this case,” Stepka said.
Stowe broke into tears in court while telling Stepka about her failed efforts to receive alcohol treatment. She said she maintained 11 months of sobriety before relapsing and drunkenly driving into Grand Traverse County on Sept. 26 with a suspended license, a plastic cup of wine stashed in her vehicle’s center console and a .21 blood-alcohol content.
“I shouldn’t have been drinking and driving. There’s no justification for it, your honor,” Stowe said.
Stowe’s legal troubles began with a 2011 drunken driving arrest and continued in 2012 when she was accused of assaulting her husband, a charge that was dropped in a plea deal. She later pleaded guilty to contempt of court after authorities said she lied during a bond violation hearing.
Local judges issued bench warrants for failing to comply with terms of her probation for drunken driving and contempt of court after she moved to Florida. Stowe said Tuesday she drove back to Grand Traverse County to visit her dying father.
She pleaded guilty to second-offense operating while intoxicated, an agreement that dropped an open container and driving while suspended charge.
Defense attorney Craig Elhart said there is no question Stowe has a severe alcohol problem, but argued jail would not give her the treatment she needs.
“I don’t know how you ever stop someone,” Elhart said. “Certainly, incarceration is what we as a society decided to do, but I don’t know if that’s the answer.”
Stepka sentenced Stowe to 365 days in jail, with credit for 69 served. He said Stowe would soon be eligible for a community corrections program and expressed hope it would help her get needed treatment.