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Former SJ sheriff pleads no contest

Former San Joaquin County Sheriff Baxter Dunn has entered a no-contest plea in a November car crash that injured a truck driver.

Through his attorney, Dunn, 60, pleaded no contest Monday to one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or higher, with injury. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a charge of driving under the influence, which is a different charge, said Dunn's attorney Al Ellis.

In essence, there is no difference between the two charges, except in the standard of proof, San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Tom Montez said. The penalties are the same for both, Montez added.

The charge to which Dunn pleaded is used when blood or breath testing has been done -- in Dunn's case, his blood-alcohol content registered 0.11, Montez said.

Under DUI laws, a person can be charged even if there is no testing if there are physical signs of alcohol consumption, such as red eyes or failing a field sobriety test, Montez added.

Dunn, who resigned his post in 2005 and served six months in federal prison for his role in a public corruption scandal, was arrested Nov. 29 on suspicion of drunken driving after authorities said he rear-ended a flatbed truck in his 2006 Chrysler 300 sedan on Highway 120 near Union Road in Manteca. The truck driver, 32-year-old Jorge Albert Becerra, complained of back pain and was treated at Doctors Hospital of Manteca. At the time, a CHP officer said it was believed that Dunn couldn't stop because he was impaired by alcohol.

Ellis said that as part of the deal, San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Roger Ross ordered Dunn to serve 15 days in jail with two days' credit for time served after his arrest. The judge recommended Dunn for an alternative work program, which could be community service or home monitoring, Ellis said.

Dunn still is under the supervision of the federal probation department because of his 2005 case. Ellis said he and Dunn expect a recommendation shortly from the federal probation department on any additional sanctions Dunn might face.

Montez said he's been told that Dunn's federal punishment likely will be served "consecutively" to his state sentence, meaning he'll complete one before beginning the other.

"We don't know exactly what that means, though," as far as length of the federal sentence, Montez said.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 578-2324.

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