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Man sentenced in drunken driving incident

A man who seriously injured his friend when he crashed a stolen pickup truck while driving drunk was sentenced Wednesday to almost six years in prison.

Bobby Joe Swearingen pleaded guilty in Jackson County Circuit Court to charges of third-degree assault, failure to perform the duties of a driver involved in an accident and unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Under a plea agreement, Swearingen will serve consecutive sentences adding up to 70 months with credit for the six months he's been in jail, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Tim Barnack.

"He admitted he'd been driving — and drinking a lot of whiskey and beer that day," said Barnack. "We have to hold him accountable."

Judge Ron Grensky also suspended Swearingen's driver's license for five years and required that Swearingen pay restitution of an undetermined amount and serve five years' probation.

On May 26, both Swearingen and passenger Jason Allen Baker were injured when the stolen 2005 Toyota Tacoma truck Swearingen was driving crashed off the road on a sharp curve. The truck, traveling north in the 700 block of North River Road, overturned, ejecting both men. Initial police reports said Swearingen had spotted a Gold Hill police officer and was attempting to flee the area.

Swearingen fled the scene of the crash on foot and was located at about 12:40 a.m. by a Jackson County sheriff's deputy. At first, Swearingen denied involvement in the crash and gave the deputy a false name. Finally, he told the deputy the men had stolen the truck, which belonged to a Medford business.

Swearingen was taken to Rogue Valley Medical Center for treatment for a collapsed lung. He has been in jail since being released from the hospital.

Baker incurred skull fractures and other injuries when he was thrown from the truck, landing unconscious on the railroad tracks. Baker lapsed into a coma and was taken by Mercy Flights ambulance to RVMC.

Baker came out of the coma but has suffered permanent damage as a result of the crash, Barnack said.

Grensky admonished a teary-eyed Swearingen, who has four young children, that he should use his time in jail to become a better person.

"If there's any kind of silver lining, it's that (Baker) didn't die," said Grensky. "If this isn't a wake-up call for you, then I don't know what is."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Man sentenced in drunken driving incident