June trials planned in drinking cases

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Nathan Hale, left, appeared in Flathead County Justice Court Tuesday afternoon with attorney Scott Hilderman and prosecutor Travis Ahner. Hale, 31, is charged with serving alcohol after hours to Travis Vandersloot at Pick’s Bowling Center near Bigfork last year. Vandersloot later crashed his vehicle into Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Haynes’ patrol car on U.S. 93. Both men died.

Two bowling alley employees, accused of serving the drunken driver responsible for a crash that killed a Montana Highway Patrol trooper, will face trial this summer.

Nathan Hale, 31, and Diane Pickavance, 40, are charged with serving alcohol to fellow employee Travis Vandersloot at a Bigfork bowling alley on March 23, 2009.

Vandersloot later crashed his vehicle into Trooper Michael Haynes’ patrol car on U.S. 93.

Hale and Pickavance appeared before Justice of the Peace David Ortley on Tuesday.

A motion was filed Tuesday by Hale’s defense attorney, Scott Hilderman, to exclude all evidence after Vandersloot left Pick’s Bowling Alley on March 23 that relates to the car crash, calling said evidence “irrelevant” and saying “its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”

Hale has been charged with negligent endangerment, sale of alcoholic beverages during closed hours and providing alcoholic beverages to an intoxicated person, all misdemeanors.

Pickavance is charged with selling alcoholic beverages during closed hours, also a misdemeanor.

Both Hale and Pickavance have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Bartender Hale allegedly served Vandersloot ten of the 13 drinks he consumed over 3 1/2 hours that night, according to court documents. Two allegedly were served after hours: a pint of beer at 2 a.m. and a shot at 2:10 a.m.

Justin Meccia, who joined Vandersloot at the bar at 11:38 p.m. and stayed until 2:23 a.m., reportedly consumed 11 drinks (five bottles of beer and two shots). Of those 11, eight were allegedly served by Hale, with one of which served at 2:10 a.m.

That night, Hale was tending bar while Vandersloot, Meccia, Madeline Coker (also an employee), an unknown customer and Pickavance, the bowling alley manager, gathered for drinks in the bar portion of Pick’s Bowling Center.

Pickavance apparently allowed Hale to serve alcoholic beverages to Vandersloot, Meccia, the unknown customer and herself after 2 a.m., Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Hoffman determined from his viewing of the surveillance video.

Both Vandersloot and Meccia drove away after leaving the bar just before 2:30 a.m. March 23.

“Given the amount of alcohol they consumed, Vandersloot’s and Meccia’s ability to drive safely was impaired,” Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan wrote in the charging documents.

Although Meccia arrived home safely, Vandersloot collided with Trooper Haynes and died at the scene of the accident.

Haynes was southbound on U.S. 93 north of Somers when Vandersloot, in a Volkswagen heading north in the southbound lane, struck the trooper’s squad car head-on.

Vandersloot’s blood-alcohol content at the time was .18.

Haynes died several days later from his injuries.

Haynes was the third trooper to die in the line of duty in Flathead County in 18 months. Two of the crashes involved drunk drivers.

“The defendant knew Vandersloot and Meccia would be driving when they left Pick’s Bowling Alley. He nevertheless over-served them alcohol, thereby negligently placing other drivers at risk of serious bodily injury or death,” court documents state.

When interviewed by investigating officers, Hale apparently acknowledged he knew Vandersloot was impaired and should not have been driving and offered Vandersloot a chance to spend the night at his home.

However, Hale apparently continued to serve Vandersloot alcohol, thus violating the law that prohibits providing alcoholic beverages to someone apparently under the influence of alcohol.

The 28-year-old Haynes left behind a wife and two young children. Haynes was an aggressive enforcer of DUI laws for the Highway Patrol

His widow, Tawny, has continued his work in bringing attention to the problem of drunk driving and has pushed for tougher DUI laws and enforcement.

Kalispell attorney Tammi Fisher, who now is Kalispell mayor, represented the Haynes family in a civil lawsuit against Pick’s Bowling Center that was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum in October 2009.

Pickavance and her family opened Pick’s Bowling Center on Montana 82 in December 2008.

If convicted, Hale could face a maximum sentence of two years in the county jail and a $2,000 fine. Pickavance could face six months in the county jail and a $500 fine.

The trials are scheduled for June.

Reporter Melissa Weaver may be reached at 758-4441 or by e-mail at mweaver@dailyinterlake.com

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