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Man charged in Pierce County with ninth OWI

Mark B. Harmon

A man whose Minnesota driving privileges had been canceled was drinking vodka and hand-rolling a cigarette when he nearly struck a squad car in traffic before being arrested for his ninth drunken-driving offense, according to court documents.

Pierce County sheriff’s deputies said the man, identified as 47-year-old Mark B. Harmon, had a preliminary blood-alcohol level of 0.267 during a Friday, July 21, traffic stop in the town of Trenton.

He was charged Monday, July 24, in Pierce County Circuit Court with OWI-ninth offense, a felony that calls for a maximum penalty of up to 12 years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Pierce County Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic ordered Harmon to post $1,000 cash bond at the hearing. Pierce County Jail staff said a probation hold was also in effect for Harmon.

Wisconsin court records revealed Harmon previously listed addresses in Lake City, Minn., and Carver, Minn. He was sentenced to nearly four years in prison after a 2011 Minnesota conviction for first-degree DWI in Wabasha County.

According to a criminal complaint:

A deputy was on patrol at 11:15 p.m. on Highway 35 near 747th Street when he watched a northbound pickup truck headed in his direction. The truck crossed the centerline at the intersection, forcing the deputy to veer to the right to avoid a crash.

After waiting for other vehicles behind the truck to pass, the deputy turned around and gave chase. The pickup pulled over more than a half-mile after the deputy began the pursuit.

The deputy went to speak to the driver, identified in a Minnesota ID card as Harmon, who denied crossing the centerline.

“I informed Mark that I had to veer away from his vehicle to avoid a collision,” deputy Luke Schladweiler wrote in his report.

Harmon then admitted to being drunk and said “take me to jail already.” Asked by the deputy when he’d been drinking, Harmon said “that was for him to know and for me to find out,” the report states.

The deputy checked inside the truck and noticed a paper bag that Harmon said contained vodka. A hand-rolling device for cigarettes was next to it on the passenger seat.

Harmon told the deputy he’d been drinking the vodka and rolling cigarettes while driving.

The deputy ran Harmon’s ID information and learned he had an expired license in Wisconsin and that his driving privileges were canceled in Minnesota. Harmon was determined to be on parole and required to have an ignition interlock device. He told the deputy he had the device but didn’t want to pay for it to be installed.

The deputy asked Harmon to perform field sobriety exercises, prompting him to reiterate his request to “take him to jail,” the complaint states. Harmon began screaming in protest during an attempt to perform the test, again demanding to go to jail.

Harmon then provided a breath sample showing the 0.267 blood-alcohol level — more than three times greater than Wisconsin’s 0.08 limit.

When the deputy asked Harmon later if he’d submit to a blood draw, the man swore in protest and said “I’m gonna make you work for your paycheck today, buddy,” according to the charging document. The deputy received a search warrant to take Harmon’s blood, which was completed at River Falls Area Hospital.

A review of Harmon’s record in Minnesota and Wisconsin revealed eight previous drunken driving-related convictions dating back to 1993 and most recently in 2011.

A preliminary hearing in the case was set for Aug. 2.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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