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Woman pleads guilty in Barbur hit-and-run

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on October 25th, 2013 at 11:16 am

(Screen capture from KOIN.com.)

Miriam Clinton of Lake Oswego is likely to get more than two years in prison after a guilty plea Friday to driving while intoxicated, hitting a man (who was walking his bike) with her car and leaving him for dead on the side of Southwest Barbur Boulevard Aug. 16.

Clinton accepted one count each of third-degree assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants and failure to perform the duties of a driver, according to KOIN-TV's report this morning from Multnomah County Court. Upon her release, her driver's license will be suspended for five years, the Oregonian reported.

KOIN reported that Clinton "cried throughout Friday's proceedings, and declined to comment afterwards."

The victim, Henry Schmidt of Southwest Portland, was a Lewis and Clark College student who had been biking home after a late shift at Pok Pok restaurant on Southeast Division Street. Clinton's car, which struck him as he walked south on the shoulder, lacerated Schimidt's spleen and broke his clavicle, cheekbone, three vertebrae, and his left leg in three places.

Clinton turned herself in Aug. 22 after an anonymous tip that her vehicle was at an auto repair shop in Wilsonville, but had initially entered a plea of not guilty, the usual procedure in a criminal case. She'd been driving with a suspended license and had three previous convictions for speeding in Oregon, KGW reported at the time.

Clinton's sentencing hearing is Nov. 15, Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks said Friday. KOIN and the Oregonian reported that under the plea deal she's expected to receive 40 months in jail with some time off for drug and alcohol rehab.

As we reported the week after this collision, hit-and-run drivers sometimes escape with lighter deals because it's harder for authorities to prove intoxication, which can't be plea-bargained away and carries a strong social stigma. That doesn't seem to have happened here. On Monday, we'll be sharing more details about how investigators avoided that situation in this case.

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Comments
  • Ron October 25, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Two years, what a travesty. Apparently what little conscience she may have wasn't enought to get her to do the right thing. It took an anonymous tip to get her to turn herself in 6 days later. I guess as long as we keep calling car crashes 'accidents" and accepting auto vehicle deaths caused by distracted, negligent, drunk or otherwise incompetent drivers, it will keep happening. There is nothing accidental about the vast majority of auto collisions. Most are negligence; speeding, intoxication, texting, tailgating, etc.

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  • John Liu October 25, 2013 at 11:48 am

    2 years in prison is not a trivial thing. If enough hit and run drivers received similar sentences, that would be plenty of deterrence. The problem isn't that the sentence needs to be longer, but that not enough of the criminals get caught, prosecuted and receive the sentence.

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    • Dan Morrison October 25, 2013 at 1:14 pm

      The other issue is a person like this should never be able to get a drivers license. Ever. And if they are caught driving again, they should serve double the original sentence.

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      • kww October 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

        Hit and run, never drive again - why isn't this a law? Driving is a privilege, not a right.

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  • Peter W October 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Now if we could just catch people before they cause a crash.

    HB 3438 (https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/HB3438) was a start (but was watered down in the end). This would have allowed unmanned speed cameras but was opposed by ACLU and a few key legislators.

    Speed reader boards (that show you your speed next to the speed limit) are effective at reducing the 85% speed; it'd be interesting to see a computer vision system that could detect cars swerving & speeding and flash a sign asking 'Are you drunk?' (but what would it do next -- ask them to pull over and phone a friend, or call 911 for them?).

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    • Ron October 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm

      Yes, the unmanned speed cameras would do a world of good in a city that is plagued by speeding on neighborhood and surface streets. And the city would raise money. How do you get the speed reader boards installed? I saw them all over Colorado and Montana this summer and they seem to help.

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      • Dan Morrison October 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

        A city plagued by speeding? Dude, it's Portland. It's plagued by people who drive 15mph below the speed limit with zero awareness.

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        • JebJeb October 25, 2013 at 3:45 pm

          Portland Maine?

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        • Peejay October 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm

          Not sure what the risk associated with driving UNDER the speed limit is. If you're going to tell me that it causes the people who drive at or above the speed limit to perform dangerous maneuvers to get past these drivers, you will have to demonstrate what live-saving functions the passing drivers were on their way to perform when they encountered these obstacles.

          Let me help you out. A speed limit is actually a maximum speed. It is not mandatory to go exactly that speed, and in fact there are plenty of legal reasons for going under that speed, including "not giving a f__k how much the guy behind me wants to go faster".

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          • Jeff October 26, 2013 at 12:59 pm

            Not appreciating the paternalistic tone in your response, just FYI.

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            • spare_wheel October 26, 2013 at 2:21 pm

              i don't appreciate breathing your toxic vehicle exhaust, jeff.

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        • Reza October 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

          Where do you live? That may be the case on our freeways sometimes, but Portland absolutely has a problem with motorists speeding on neighborhood streets. Often when trying to cut through in order to bypass congested freeways...

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          • JLJones October 26, 2013 at 10:56 am

            This exactly. I live close to I-5 in North Portland, and like clockwork every day during rush hour, there is a stream of cars with Washington plates flying down the avenues parallel to the freeway, often barely slowing for stop signs or yielding for pedestrians.

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        • Dimitrios October 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

          I can't really get behind mocking slower drivers. I also haven't noticed a slow/unawareness correlation. It's just the common lazy thinking of "anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac."

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        • tony tapay October 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm

          Hyperbole much?

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        • spare_wheel October 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

          your plague is my cure.

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        • Ron October 28, 2013 at 11:48 am

          Dude, sit at Grand Central Bakery on NE Fremont for an hour or so. No one is doing less than 35 or 40 in the heavily congested 20 MPH zone.

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      • middle of the road guy October 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

        And hopefully this could also be used for all those cars that run stop signs.

        Oops. Did I say cars? I meant bikes.

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    • John Lascurettes October 25, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Having grown up in California I was surprised to find out that sobriety checkpoints are also considered unconstitutional here in Oregon. It's amazing how effective they are in CA.

      In CA, there's plenty of warning that they're coming up with signs posted well before someone could turn off and use an alternate route (and thus the avoidance of entrapment) – and yet, drunk drivers are paranoid enough that they think they'll be followed if they turn off so they try to continue through and "fool" the checkpoint officer.

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      • Dan Morrison October 25, 2013 at 1:17 pm

        Sobriety checkpoints are absolutely unconstitutional and shouldn't be allowed anywhere. Cops need suspicion that a crime has been committed to detain someone. It's one of the foundations of all our laws.

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        • John Lascurettes October 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

          Clearly debatable as it's legal in many states and has stood up to legal challenges in those states. Also, lest you forget, it's a privilege to drive a motor vehicle, not a right – and rules may be set up regulating that privilege.

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          • John Lascurettes October 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

            Although the U.S. Supreme Court has found sobriety checkpoints to be constitutionally permissible, ten states (Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming) have found that sobriety roadblocks violate their own state constitutions or have outlawed them.

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Random_checkpoint#Legality_in_the_United_States

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          • Dan Morrison October 28, 2013 at 1:37 pm

            It's a privilege, not a right, to own or rent an abode but still cops can't bust down the door there without probable cause, due process, and a warrant. I don't see why that shouldn't extend to driving or any other activity.

            I know checkpoints have been held up in court because they continue to be put into place, but that doesn't mean being searched and detained without suspicion isn't a total affront to our rights.

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        • tony tapay October 25, 2013 at 6:35 pm

          "absolutely unconstitutional" except for the fact that US Supreme Court (which gets to decide such things) says otherwise.

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          • Jimmy October 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

            The US Supreme Court does not rule on matters regarding Oregon constitutional law.

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            • tony tapay October 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

              "shouldn't be allowed anywhere"

              That doesn't sound like it's referencing Oregon only.

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          • John Lascurettes October 26, 2013 at 1:10 am

            To be fair, it's been deemed unconstitutional against the Oregon Constitution specifically – not the U.S. Constitution.

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            • Terry D October 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

              At least that also means that some mayor can not institute a racist "stop and frisk" like ordinance....sounds like a fair trade off to me.....Computerized monitoring of cars driving erratically at high rates of speed though (just like airplanes flying over freeways)....that I could get behind.

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              • John Lascurettes October 26, 2013 at 11:59 am

                You'll note from that SCOUS reference if you go read it that they set up a set of rules whereby it prevents targeting any vehicles on the whim of the officer – it has to be either a regular pattern (every 5th car) or some sort of randomizer. There are several other things that come into play to prevent unfair profiling or entrapment.

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        • J_R October 29, 2013 at 8:52 am

          Re: Dan Morrison's claim about random sobriety stops being unconstitutional.

          Sobriety checkpoints are a reasonable attempt to reduce the thousands of monthly killings by drunk motorists. How is it that 3000 people killed by terrorists on one day more than ten years ago results in all of us being treated at potential terrorists? Combined we pay millions of dollars per year and spend an extra hour for every flight because of this potential threat, but we do nothing to reduce actual drunk driving killings. I'd gladly give up a tiny bit of "freedom" by allowing random sobriety stops and insurance checks on the highways to reduce the slaughter. As others have noted, driving is a privilege, not a right.

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    • Kevin Wagoner October 25, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      We so need to automate this in Portland. We will never have enough cops to make the impact that is needed. I've called and emailed the SAFE service for speed enforcement on SW Spring Garden St and it has fallen on death ears. This is clearly a task that needs automated.

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      • brian October 25, 2013 at 8:39 pm

        According to portland maps there is no speeding problem on sw spring garden street, sw multnomah blvd east of 25th has a huge speeding problem, over 75% of the approx 19,000 cars/day exceed the speed limit by 10%. request new traffic/speed counts. tell them why the existing speed limits are too high, proximity to schools/parks et cetera. emailing safe@pdx is the laziest thing you could do.

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    • Fred November 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      These measures are a step in the right direction, but the real solution is Google's driverless car. See the article in last week's New Yorker magazine (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/11/25/131125fa_fact_bilger). Drivers are the problem - machines are the solution. The machines will be able to keep cyclists a lot safer than drivers are able to do.

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  • c-gir October 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    She already had a suspended license when she killed someone. What is the point of suspending it for another 5 years? Clearly she needs to be not allowed to own a car to get her to stop driving.

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    • Brian October 25, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      She never killed anyone

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      • Unit October 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

        Not yet.

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      • c-gir October 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm

        My mistake. She just maimed someone. It's hard for me to keep track of all these hit-and-runs.

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      • Alex October 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm

        She just left someone for dead - there's a pretty big difference.

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    • dan October 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      Is there a legal mechanism to stop someone from purchasing a car? Kind of like firearms, you could always buy one from Craigslist, right? Suspending the license might be as close as we can get.

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      • Oregon Mamacita October 26, 2013 at 9:57 am

        You know what would be interesting- a requirement that you would have to show a valid drivers' license whenever you buy gas. That would slow some folks down, and would not be a huge burden. In fact, it might cut down on the use of stolen credit cards to buy gas. It's harder to hit someone when you are out of gas....

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        • Brian October 27, 2013 at 11:07 pm

          I too think this is a great idea and suggested this to my house rep Tina Kotek, was not well received. She made some valid points that it would be difficult to put systems in place. . .

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      • Spiffy October 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        you can't register a car in your name without insurance... you can't get insurance with a suspended license...

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  • GlowBoy October 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    I find it interesting that she was convicted of several things, but not of Driving with a Suspended License (even though she was doing so). That may be because in Oregon, unless the original reason for suspension was itself a serious crime, DWS is only a violation and not a crime.

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    • Todd Hudson October 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Maybe so, but it is a deciding factor in the magnitude of her sentence.

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      • GlowBoy October 26, 2013 at 8:05 am

        I'm sure it is, but it should still be a primary crime, as it is in other states. We have far too many people driving without licenses. In almost every crash where I've been hit or a witness, the at-fault driver was unlicensed.

        These are largely people who've been proven to be dangerous drivers, but have failed to heed the consequences imposed so far, and continue to drive. It will take the threat of criminal consequences to get them off the roads.

        Whether it would have made a difference in Ms. Clinton's case is impossible to say, but I still think this would make a big difference overall in the safety of our roadways.

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        • Spiffy October 27, 2013 at 2:04 pm

          I drove on a suspended license for many years... it was suspended because my dad's car didn't have insurance when I was driving and got in an accident... he was having me drive him around because his license was suspended... I kept driving (it was a long commute to work) and getting caught speeding for years... I think it was twelve or more times I got cited for driving while suspended... the system clearly doesn't work...

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  • Todd Boulanger October 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Please someone/ or organization please reach out to her to work with her how to use public transit (once she is released) and perhaps cycling...so that we do not see her again in this situation…and thus reoffending.

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  • Slammy October 25, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    I feel bad for her and her little boy. I hope he makes it out of this OK... very sad for him i'm sure.

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    • Chris I October 25, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      It's definitely a sad situation, but crimes need to have punishments. If we don't punish bad behavior, people are more likely to behave badly.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate October 25, 2013 at 6:38 pm

      My heart will go on...what the little boy needs is a responsible mother who does not drink and drive and then leave people for dead on the road after she's hit them.

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    • Spiffy October 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      he's probably to young to learn the lesson that she didn't until now... maybe we'll be lucky and she'll pass it down...

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  • SE October 25, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    >>hit-and-run drivers sometimes escape with lighter deals because it's harder for authorities to prove intoxication, which can't be plea-bargained away and carries a strong social stigma.

    strong social stigma ??? can't be plea-bargained away ??

    oh please elaborate on those points.

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    • Spiffy October 27, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      I think it's because intoxication is usually an on the spot test (BOC) and is then a fact and not conjecture... it's impossible to prove BOC without an actual BOC test...

      a jury would be less likely to convict without proof because if they were wrong the person would have that social stigma of being a drunk driver hanging over them, which they can certainly empathize with...

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  • tony tapay October 25, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    I'm curious how they got her for DUI when there was no way for them to prove that. Could she have volunteered that part of the charge, or admitted it under questioning?

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  • Kristi Finney-Dunn October 25, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I do not feel sorry for her at all. She had chance after chance to straighten up and refused to do so. For all we know, her little boy was in the car with her when she did this and/or other times when she was under the influence. She tried to hide her crime and her total lack of caring for another human being and I think all her crying is just more selfishness. Maybe I'm wrong... I hope I am. I hope she can gain some insight and understanding and become a better person and mother. I hope she doesn't spend her time in prison just crying the poor me, this has ruined my life song that seems so common. Henry and those who love him and even those who love her are the poor victims, not her. ... I love that Henry was too busy following his own goals and dreams to allow her to disrupt his life yet again today.

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  • GlowBoy October 26, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Agree with Kristi ... it looks like her driving has already brought her a few brushes with the law and she had her chance to fly right. Not only that, but she fled from the scene after nearly (and, for all she knew, actually) killing someone, and after she sobered up she still tried to get her car fixed without taking responsibility. Both acts are also tantamount to tampering with evidence. Prison time is appropriate.

    I feel bad for her child, especially as the parent of young children myself. But lots of criminals have kids, and they still have to go to jail. We can only hope that the system does its best to take care of her son while she's removed from society, and that she can be a good citizen and mom when she returns.

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  • Terry D October 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

    The two years in jail seems fair to me, but I do not think with her driving record she should EVER be allowed a driver's license again. After she gets out of the "big house" she will need to find a new place to live and job anyway....make her live in a place with good public transit for the rest of her life.

    Period.

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    • Oregon Mamacita October 26, 2013 at 10:04 am

      As you know, I support driving and hope for cleaner cars to be available.
      But driving privileges should be revoked permanently for some folks, including this gal. Or at least a decade, with proof of sobriety and real turnaround before return of the license is even considered.

      Two years in jail is a huge deal for the non-career criminal, and longer terms can mean that transition back to society is almost impossible. So, the term is fair. I would tell the victims family that the guilty party will really feel punished. I have toured jails as part of my job, and let me tell you I got scared on the tour. Jail is scary. Hopefully the defendant will learn.

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  • Maria October 26, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Anyone driving with a suspended license who is caught driving with a suspended license should not be getting another license. Ever. Game over.

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  • Penny-Farthing October 27, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Why is this women being given the opportunity to EVER legally drive again? 5 year suspension? She has already shown that suspensions mean nothing to her...her crime was committed while her license was already suspended!!! Permanent revocation of driving privileges should have been the first item in her sentencing. Why are we so unwilling to revoke driver's licenses in this country? It is absurd.

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  • jim October 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    This reminds me of the other story about the lady that ran over the two kids in the leaf pile and fled the scene leaving them to die. She will most likely serve a sentence and then be deported as she isn't a citizen.

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  • Joe October 28, 2013 at 9:00 am

    regarding the lady that drove thru the leafs for fun and hit those kids killed the and ran, later she said she hit something to her boyfriend he takes the car to the car wash. *** what the hell is going on *** we need laws billboards whatever.. just because you drive doesnt mean you own the road.

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  • noel October 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Wow only 2years? The dude will assume the consequences for the rest of his life with probably back and other type of pain.

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    • Pete October 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Also, receiving a sentence of 40 months in jail and actually serving 40 months in jail are two different things.

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