Driver, convicted in 2002 death of Isanti woman, faces felony DWI charge

Joseph John West IV
Joseph John West IV

A rural Isanti man, sentenced to nearly 80 months in prison in June 2003 for causing a crash that took the life of Isanti resident Beth Reichel in May 2002, appeared in Isanti County District Court this week to face several new charges that include driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

Joseph John West IV, 33, appeared before Judge Karla Hancock Jan. 6 and was charged with felony driving under the influence of a controlled substance; misdemeanors driving after revocation and pharmacy; and petty misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad noted West’s extensive criminal history when requesting bail be set at $250,000 without conditions or $125,000 with conditions.

“This is a person who killed Beth Reichel in 2002 and continues to this day to drive under the influence of controlled substances in his system,” Edblad said. “This defendant has been a part of the Isanti County court system longer than any assistant Isanti County attorney and longer than any member of the public defender’s office.”

Edblad noted several convictions against West, including traffic charges, DWIs and drug possession from Isanti, Mille Lacs, Chisago and Anoka counties.

West pled guilty to felony fifth-degree drug possession in Anoka County in November 2009 and was sentenced to 15 months to the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud that was stayed for five years. In August 2011, this prison sentence was executed due to a probation violation.

“What we have here is an out-of-control meth addict who continues to be a danger to Isanti County and this community,” Edblad said. “His criminal history, the fact he killed a woman over a decade ago, and the fact he continues to drive under the influence, shows that he is a consistent danger to Isanti County and the public. The only time he has shown any sobriety is when he’s been in prison.”

Edblad noted West has the ability to stay sober if he so desired.

“The defendant has four prior treatments under his belt,” Edblad said. “He should have the skills to maintain sobriety, but he continues to use. He’s a public safety risk to Isanti County and the public.”

West, who was appointed a public defender at the hearing, said the bail amounts Edblad requested were “crazy.” He requested he be ordered to a treatment facility instead of being sent back to jail.

Following discussion, Hancock went with Edblad’s recommendation to set bail at $250,000 without conditions or $125,000 with conditions. Isanti County Chief Deputy Sheriff Chris Caulk confirmed West posted $125,000 bail later that day and is now on release with conditions. West’s next court appearance is Jan. 16.

“You have an extremely high bail evaluation score, a history of DUIs, lots of drug charges; these are all significant,” Hancock said. “I think you are a terrible public safety risk.”

Conditions of West’s bail include not leaving the state of Minnesota without court approval; no alcohol or controlled substance use; no possession of alcohol or drugs; submit to random drug and alcohol testing; no entering bars or liquor stores; and no use or possession of firearms or dangerous weapons.

Reichel was killed when the vehicle in which she was a passenger was struck head-on on County Road 9 at Vickers Street on May 20, 2002.

According to police reports, West was westbound on County Road 9 when he attempted to pick up a cigarette from the floor of his vehicle, drove into the eastbound lane before entering the ditch and striking the Reichel vehicle head-on.

Blood tests showed West had methamphetamines in his system at the time of the collision and was sentenced June 12, 2003 to 64 2/3 months for felony criminal vehicular homicide, and to 15 months for felony criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm.

According to the criminal complaint:

West was pulled over by Cambridge Police Officer Katie Walker on Jan. 3 around 1 a.m. after noticing erratic driving behavior.

After running a traffic record on him, she learned West’s driving status was revoked. West told Walker he had only smoked marijuana, and the last time he used meth was before he went to jail this past summer.

Walker also noted West appeared very nervous, anxious, was talking quietly, looking down and his cheeks were sunken. She also observed a butane torch and mechanic gloves on the passenger seat which are commonly used for smoking meth in a glass pipe.

During a search of the vehicle, Walker noticed a hypodermic needle, which was collected as evidence.

West was placed under arrest and transported to the Isanti County Jail. West failed several sobriety tests, which were administered at the jail due to the cold weather and icy conditions.

West was then transported to Cambridge Medical Center where a blood sample was taken and sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Forensic Science Laboratory for analysis.