Cass County Courthouse picture

PLATTSMOUTH – An Ashland man who led authorities on a drunk-driving car chase in Cass County with young children in his vehicle will spend time in state prison.

Wade A. Smith, 29, appeared in Cass County District Court Monday morning for a sentencing hearing. He pled no contest in February to four charges. These included a Class IIIA felony of commit child abuse, one Class IV felony of operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest and one Class I misdemeanor of resisting arrest-first offense. The fourth charge was a Class I misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol-.15+-second offense.

Smith was arrested last summer for leading authorities on a high-speed car chase. The incident began at 11:32 p.m. July 17. A local citizen told Ashland police Smith was in a pickup truck that was running with its lights off near a construction site. An Ashland police officer began to approach Smith’s pickup to speak with him.

Smith then sped away from the scene with the truck’s lights still off. The officer clocked the pickup going 52 mph in a 25-mph zone. Smith ran past a stop sign at the intersection of Highways 66 and 6 in Ashland and went into Cass County on Highway 66.

The police officer pursued Smith and registered the vehicle going more than 100 mph on the highway. Smith turned onto 262nd Street and continued southbound at dangerous speeds. He ran past another stop sign before intentionally turning his pickup into a cornfield located between Mill Road and Waverly Road on 262nd Street.

Smith drove through the field and destroyed numerous cornstalks before crashing along a fence line. Two young children were in the car with him during the chase. Smith abandoned the vehicle and took both young children with him into the cornfield.

The police officer asked for backup from both the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and Nebraska State Patrol during the chase. Officers from all three agencies soon arrived at the cornfield to try to locate Smith. A K-9 unit from the Nebraska State Patrol also assisted with the search.

The NSP dog found Smith lying on the ground trying to hide in the cornfield. Smith and the two young children were covered in dirt and debris. Elmwood Rescue members and Cass County Emergency Medical Services personnel came to the scene to check both children.

Smith initially refused to get up after authorities ordered him to do so. They were able to escort him out of the cornfield at 12:35 a.m. Smith kicked one of the troopers above the right knee as they were leading him to a squad car.

Officers transported him to Saunders County Jail and administered a chemical breath test. The test revealed a blood-alcohol content level of .171.

Cass County Attorney Colin Palm told the court he was very concerned about Smith’s actions that night. He said Smith endangered the lives of not only the general motoring public but also both children in the pickup truck. He felt Smith did not understand how dangerous the chase was for everyone involved.

“When I read his statement in the pre-sentence investigation report there’s no remorse there, and there’s certainly no responsibility being taken for his actions,” Palm said.

Palm said he was recommending prison because of both the potential and actual harm the car chase caused people. He said he was especially alarmed about the fact that the young children had been involved in both the highway chase and the cornfield pursuit.

“He chose to put them through that,” Palm said. “That’s part of the reason the state is suggesting a prison term.”

Defense attorney Brett McArthur told the court he knew his client had made multiple poor choices that evening. He said he had also seen Smith make many positive decisions since that time. He said Smith had remained sober, appeared at all court hearings and had been a productive employee at work. He had also taken a parenting class and had refrained from driving.

“He has done everything the court would want him to do in this situation,” McArthur said.

McArthur asked the court to issue a sentence of probation. He said Smith would benefit from additional treatment services and other classes that he could take while on probation. He said it would also reinforce the importance of sobriety in Smith’s life.

Judge Michael Smith said probation was not an option because of the serious circumstances of the case. He ordered a prison sentence of two years on each of the felony charges and six months on the misdemeanor charges.

Smith will serve all four charges at the same time at the Nebraska Department of Corrections. He will have his driver’s license suspended for five years and must pay a $1,000 fine on the DUI charge. He will be given credit for 20 days he spent in jail following his arrest.

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