Woman Admits Injuring Officer

By Robin Franzen | The Oregonian | September 20, 2002

Summary: A remorseful Linda Abeles is sentenced to five years' probation for the drunken-driving incident

Shaking and remorseful, Linda Abeles, 21, stood before a judge and courtroom full of police officers Thursday and admitted she'd nearly killed a Portland motorcycle patrolman by driving drunk in January, destroying his career, jeopardizing his family's future -- and her own.

Described by her attorney, Stephen Houze, as "anyone's daughter," a "good person" who had done something bad, her case sent a sobering message to any driver.

"I drank and I smoked marijuana, and it was clear I had too much to drink. I'd been to two bars and had a significant amount of alcohol," Abeles said. "I find it very difficult to live with myself sometimes. . . . I never thought I'd be the sole cause of hurting someone so badly."

Abeles pleaded guilty to felony third-degree assault and misdemeanor driving under the influence of intoxicants during a collision that left traffic Officer Christopher D. Guzman critically injured.

In a plea agreement, Abeles was immediately sentenced to five years' formal probation and 45 days in a work-release center; she also had her license suspended for five years. In addition, she will be required to testify about the Jan. 6 accident in a civil lawsuit filed by Guzman's family. The family is seeking $29.5 million from the owners of two bars that allegedly served Abeles when she was visibly drunk.

Guzman, who was not in court Thursday because of ongoing medical treatment, was driving his police motorcycle on Southeast Sandy Boulevard about 1:30 a.m. when the collision occurred.

An hour after the collision, Abeles had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent, more than double the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Guzman, described as a first-rate officer who was working an extended shift, sustained massive head injuries. He was considered a "probable fatal" at the scene but was saved by heroic efforts of the medical staff at Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, said his lawyer, Victor Calzaretta.

Since then, his medical condition has improved -- he is mobile and can carry on a conversation -- but his sense of taste and smell were destroyed, and "his life has been forever altered," Calzaretta said. "His police career is over. The future of his family is very uncertain."

Houze said his client would suffer the consequences of her actions deeply. He commended the district attorney's office for showing compassion for Abeles and reasonableness in prosecuting the case.

"It's tragically ironic that such a good person should be the person standing before the court today," Houze said. "But she is."

On the drunken-driving charge, Abeles was sentenced to five years' bench probation, two days in jail with credit for time already served, alcohol treatment and 100 hours of community service.

In exchange for her plea, charges of reckless driving, recklessly endangering another person and second-degree criminal mischief were dismissed.

Robert Abeles of Lake Oswego, Linda Abeles' father, called his daughter a good and caring person who has performed volunteer work at a women's shelter and aspires to become a teacher and give something back to society. Since the accident, he said, she has "grown as a person and shown great strength of character. . . . It's our sorrow as a family that Officer Guzman played any part in this situation."

Abeles, a University of Oregon student at the time of the accident, said she hoped the Portland Police Bureau would allow her to talk to schoolchildren about the horrible consequences of drunken driving.

"Perhaps I can change people's perspective," she said tearfully. "I know I will never drink and drive ever again."