Man sentenced to prison for wild New Year's Eve chase on Highway 51
TOWN OF BELOIT—Robert A. Carothers is going to prison for a wild chase on Highway 51 on New Year's Eve that led to a standoff with police in which he threatened to cut his own throat.
It's quite possible Carothers was hoping police would kill him, his attorney said at the sentencing hearing Tuesday in Rock County Court.
It's also likely the incident was a plea for help from a man who was grieving the death of his mother last year and dealing with serious drug and alcohol addictions, said defense attorney Josh Klaff.
Carothers, 24, of 135 Park Ave, Beloit, pleaded guilty, as part of a plea agreement, to second-degree recklessly endangering safety, fleeing an officer and second-offense intoxicated driving.
Lesser charges were dismissed.
In a squad-car video obtained by The Gazette, Carothers is seen speeding on the highway and swerving into oncoming traffic, but then pulling away before impact.
With the tires on his pickup truck deflated with stop sticks, he continued to flee but finally stopped near the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport, where town of Beloit police, Rock County sheriff's deputies and Janesville police surrounded him.
Carothers refused to leave the truck and held a knife to his own throat. Officers backed off. They shot him with Tasers, but his coat prevented the device from working.
Pepper spray eventually forced him out, but he struggled with officers while holding a knife in his hand.
Assistant District Attorney Jerry Urbik said officers used remarkable restraint.
“If not for the professionalism of deputies involved, and town of Beloit officers, Mr. Carothers easily could have been shot in the incident because he was presenting a clear danger to them and to the public,” Urbik said.
Urbik read a list of five misdemeanor convictions from 2011 to 2013 including battery and disorderly conduct, in which Carothers served jail time, mostly because he violated his probation.
Klaff said Carothers had been working full time and getting his life in order when his mother died, which led to a “downward spiral.”
Carothers has mental health and addiction problems, Klaff said.
Carothers apologized, saying, “I've never regretted anything as much.” He pleaded for Judge James Daley “to help me through this.”
“Whatever reason you did this, you need to understand that you are responsible for what you do,” Daley said, urging Carothers to accept the addiction treatment he will be offered in prison.
“I will, your honor,” Carothers replied.
Daley sentenced him to four years and nine months in prison followed by eight years of extended supervision and probation.
Daley asked him if he was ever sober when arrested. He said "no."
The judge told Carothers that in his experience, those who get treatment and then join a 12-step program are the most successful in staying sober.