By NIKKI YOUNK
FLORENCE, Wis. - An Iron Mountain man accused of committing his eighth drunk driving offense has been found competent to stand trial, but he will now plead not guilty by reason of mental defect or insanity.
Shane VanLaanen, 54, was in Florence County Court for a competency hearing.
Florence County District Attorney Douglas Drexler said that Judge Leon D. Stenz found VanLaanen competent to stand trial, meaning that he understands the charges against him and the court process.
Drexler added that VanLaanen, along with his new attorney Michael Scholke, then entered a plea of not guilty by reason of mental defect or insanity.
According to Drexler, the court will now appoint a doctor to examine VanLaanen for mental illness.
VanLaanen will still face a two-day jury trial on Dec. 16 and 17.
Drexler said that this will be a bifurcated, or two-part, trial.
On the first day, the jury will determine whether or not VanLaanen is guilty of the charges. On the second day, the jury will determine whether or not he can be found not guilty because of a lack of ability to form intent.
If VanLaanen is found not guilty by reason of mental defect or insanity, he could spend up to 10 years in a mental health facility, said Drexler.
The normal punishment for the charges is up to 10 years in prison.
VanLaanen faces one felony count of operating while intoxicated-eighth offense and one felony count of operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration-eighth offense.
The charges stem from a July 6 incident in Florence.
According to the criminal complaint in the case, a deputy from the Florence County Sheriff's Department stopped VanLaanen's vehicle on U.S. 2 for driving above the speed limit.
After administering sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test, the deputy determined that he was intoxicated.
A criminal history check revealed that VanLaanen had seven previous operating while intoxicated convictions between 1989 and 2002.
Nikki Younk's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.