BROOKINGS – A Rapid City woman has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for driving under the influence of alcohol and methamphetamine with unrestrained kids in her vehicle when she crashed on Interstate 29 near Brookings this March.
Starlight Brings Plenty, 41, was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison for DUI-sixth offense and another five years in prison for abuse or cruelty to a minor. She pleaded guilty to the charges in Brookings County Circuit Court on April 6.
Abuse or cruelty to a minor is a Class 3 felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $30,000 fine, and DUI – sixth offense is a Class 4 felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
A probable cause statement says the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the Brookings County Sheriff’s Office responded to the crash scene near I-29 mile marker 141 in the early morning hours of March 16. Alcoholic beverages were found at the scene, and all seven occupants of the vehicle were transported to the Brookings Hospital, where one person involved said Brings Plenty had been driving prior to the crash.
Brookings County State’s Attorney Dan Nelson said three children who were 7 years old and younger were passengers in the vehicle, and none of the children were wearing seat belts. One child sustained non-life-threatening injuries, he added.
At sentencing this week, defense attorney Ellie Vandenberg said her client had been born into a poor family where both parents were alcoholic, and her father was violent.
Brings Plenty is highly susceptible to addiction, but Vandenberg said Brings Plenty had long periods of sobriety over the years, until her mother’s death in January, when Brings Plenty used alcohol and meth to get through the grief.
Vandenberg said her client knows she cannot have another drop of alcohol or use drugs ever again, and the March crash was a life-changing and mind-opening experience.
The attorney requested a suspended execution of sentence with supervised probation, along with credit for 50 days already served in jail, and required inpatient treatment.
Brings Plenty told Circuit Judge Greg Stoltenburg that she takes full responsibility for everything that occurred, saying she was still working on herself and has found God, and asking for someone to believe in her. She said she’s been to prison many times and has never received substance abuse treatment there.
Stoltenburg said he needed to protect society from Brings Plenty and to keep her away from others, especially children.
The judge said Brings Plenty was under the influence of meth and alcohol when she picked up children and drove on icy roadways. All the children in the vehicle were unrestrained when it rolled and Brings Plenty committed her sixth DUI.
“I need to break the cycle,” Stolenburg said. “You need to stay away from your children.”
Stoltenburg then sentenced Brings Plenty to five years in prison on both of the charges, with the terms to run consecutively.
Brings Plenty must pay $213 in court costs, $200.50 for blood tests, and court-appointed attorney fees. She must follow the rules and regulations of the South Dakota Board of Pardons and Paroles and remain law abiding, and she gets credit for 50 days of pre-trial detention.
Her driver’s license will also be revoked for five years after her release from prison.
Brings Plenty was remanded to the custody of the sheriff’s office for transport to the women’s penitentiary.
Nelson said he felt the sentence was appropriate due to the extreme circumstances in this case.
“Protecting the children and removing this individual from their lives was the primary focus in this case. The extreme danger she placed them in during this incident required a severe consequence, and I believe the 10 years in prison sends the right message to her and the community,” Nelson said.
Contact Jill Fier at [email protected]