Bail set at $1.5M in felony DWI case

Court feels defendant continues to be public safety risk

Isanti County Judge James Dehn ordered bail at $1.5 million without conditions or $1 million with conditions in relation to continuous probation violations in the felony driving under the influence case filed two months ago against Joseph John West IV.

Joseph John West IV
Joseph John West IV

West, 33, of Isanti, was charged Jan. 6 in Isanti County District Court with felony driving under the influence of a controlled substance; misdemeanors driving after revocation and pharmacy; and petty misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. As of Tuesday, March 4, West remained in custody at the Isanti County Jail.

Since the initial court hearing Jan. 6, Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad explained in court Feb. 28 that West has repeatedly violated his conditions of release.

Edblad reminded the court West served time in prison for felony criminal vehicular homicide in the death of Beth Reichel in May 2002 in Isanti County. West was driving with meth in his system when he struck the vehicle Reichel had been a passenger in.

“This is one of the few defendants that I can honestly say has been a part of the Isanti County criminal justice system longer than I have been Isanti County Attorney, and I’m entering my 20th year as county attorney,” Edblad said. “This defendant was picked up in the city of Cambridge Jan. 3 and charged with felony DWI because of aggravating factors involved in the death of Beth Reichel. This defendant’s juvenile record goes back to 1993.”

Edblad explained West appeared in court Jan. 10 for testing positive for methamphetamine and amphetamine.

On Feb. 6, Edblad explained another hearing was held because the defendant was caught with a device trying to fake an urine analysis ordered by the court.

Edblad explained West tested positive again for meth and amphetamine in his system Feb. 12.

On Feb. 18, an order for apprehension and detain was issued by the court, and West was due in court Feb. 20. Edblad said Feb. 20, the defendant left a message with the courts indicating he was in Duluth shoveling snow and couldn’t get back to Cambridge. Edblad said Investigator Rob Bowker also received a call that same day from the bail bonding company indicating the defendant told the company he was not going to prison and was going to leave the state.

On Feb. 20, a warrant was issued for West’s arrest for not appearing in court, and he was picked up by the Forest Lake Police Department Feb. 25 after he was found hiding in a residential garage behind a vehicle.

Edblad explained when West was located, law enforcement found two cellphones on him; one phone was for the phone number he provided Isanti County Probation; the other phone had messages on it regarding buying and selling drugs, and also a message on it from his father letting him know law enforcement was looking for him.

As part of Dehn’s order Feb. 28, all cash bonds or surety bonds were forfeited. Bail had been set Jan. 6 at $125,000 with conditions; Jan. 10 at $250,000 with conditions; and Feb. 6 at $500,000 with conditions.

Dehn also ordered a no contact order between West and his father.

“Throughout this entire process, there has been continuous contact with the defendant’s father to not have his son be held accountable to the state of Minnesota,” Edblad said. “His father is probably the biggest enabler of criminal justice that I’ve ever seen.”

In his reasoning for the high bail amounts, Edblad said West continues to be a public safety risk.

“All of these events I’ve described, excluding the criminal history itself, have all taken place since Jan. 6, 2014,” Edblad said. “All of these violations of his conditions of release have taken place in less than two months. All of this continued meth use has taken place in less than two months. This person killed someone over a decade ago, and since that prison term, he continues to commit several crimes.”

Besides ordering all the other conditions of release to stay in place, such as no possession or use of alcohol or controlled substances, and be placed on an intensive supervision program, Dehn ordered West to report to the Isanti County Jail at 8 a.m. seven days per week to provide a urine sample. Dehn also ordered West be placed on a GPS monitoring system. Besides the bail amounts, Dehn also ordered another $25,000 cash performance obligation be paid before West could be released from custody.

Edblad asked the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office to handle the daily urine analysis due to West’s continued defiance of the court order.

“Probation can’t continue to deal with this defendant based on his repeated thwarted efforts,” Edblad said. “And we also need the no contact order with the defendant and his client based on his father’s continued interferences with the judicial system. This an out of control, meth-addicted individual. I don’t want to be the individual to look  into the eyes of another family like Beth Reichel’s.”

West’s attorney, Mark Kelly, said there is a lack of perception on the bail amounts.

“These are bail amounts set in murder cases,” Kelly said. “There haven’t been any new charges filed against my client since Jan. 6, and the county attorney’s comments get contiguous; almost like a bully pulpit.”

Kelly defended his client’s father and noted he is a “sober individual and good Christian man who is just trying to provide emotional and financial support for his son.”

“There have been a lot of second- and third-hand character assassinations going on,” Kelly said. “Ordering the no contact between this father and his son is baseless, and there is no place in law enforcement for it.”

Kelly noted his client did secure a bed at a drug treatment facility; however, he was turned away after there was discrepancy on which county was going to pay for the treatment.

Dehn said West’s continued drug use is apparent.

“Mr. West, this is your fourth appearance in court regarding this charge, and you have stated that you need treatment and you are a drug addict,” Dehn said. “When I go back and look at the last couple of years, you have visually deteriorated in front of the court. That’s a pretty good indicator of continued drug use.”

Before setting West’s bail, Dehn said he needs treatment.

“Given the track record here, Mr. West is an individual who needs treatment, is an addict and has the ability to check into treatment,” West said. “He is an ever-present danger to the public.”