A 47-year-old motorist who has been caught multiple times driving drunk and without a license appeared in court Monday on charges that he was intoxicated when he killed a 21-year-old man in a hit and run on a northern Minnesota highway.
Bruce A. Basswood, of Ponsford, Minn., was charged Friday in Becker County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the crash late last week that killed Joshua C. Jones, 21, also of Ponsford. The counts allege that Basswood was drunk and fled.
He remained jailed in lieu of $250,000 bail after Monday's hearing.
Basswood has been convicted at least six times in Minnesota for drunken driving, first when he was 20 years old and most recently in June 2016.
He's also been convicted six times for driving despite a canceled license, most recently in May 2017. In that case, Wadena County District Judge Waldemar Senyk sentenced him to a year in jail but set him free after he served one month and put him on two years' unsupervised probation.
Court records show that Basswood hasn't had a valid license in Minnesota since 1991.
As of late 2015, drivers in Minnesota were sharing the road with almost 1,500 motorists with six or more DWI convictions, according to data from the state Department of Public Safety.
Last fall, Danny Lee Bettcher, 65, was cited for drunken driving for the 28th time after leaving the VFW in New York Mills. Bettcher, unlike Basswood, did have a valid license.
State Rep. Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, a leading voice in the Legislature on drunken drivers who repeatedly get caught, said Monday that the state must allow judges great latitude in imposing ignition interlock systems on the vehicles of motorists convicted of drunken driving.
The devices, in use in Minnesota since 2010, analyze a driver's breath and won't allow the car to start if the motorist has had too much to drink.
State Rep. Dario Anselmo, R-Edina, said he might introduce legislation seeking a lifetime revocation of a driver's license upon a fifth drunken-driving conviction. "Someone's privilege to drive doesn't trump everyone else's right to live," he said.
The prosecution alleges that Basswood was eastbound on Pow Wow Hwy. east of Pine Point about 7:25 p.m. Thursday when he hit Jones. Emergency responders pronounced him dead at the scene.
Basswood and two other people, both passengers, were found at a home in Pine Point, and all were arrested. A preliminary breath test by law enforcement found Basswood's blood alcohol content at 0.10 percent, above the legal limit for driving in Minnesota. He also admitted using methamphetamine a few days earlier.