Man sentenced in three-county police chase

ESCANABA — An 18-year-old Escanaba male who stole a car in Escanaba and eluded police in Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties last summer was sentenced to six months in jail in Delta County Circuit Court on Monday.

Cory John LaBonte pleaded guilty in October to one count of unlawful use of a motor vehicle, a two-year high-court misdemeanor. He admitted to unlawfully driving someone else’s vehicle after he observed the keys inside the unlocked car last August.

Escanaba Public Safety responded to a report of a 2008 Buick LaCrosse stolen from the 800 block of North Lincoln Road at 9:46 p.m. on Aug. 18. About four and a half hours later, the stolen vehicle was located by Norway police, who attempted to stop the suspect driver.

According to Escanaba Public Safety, LaBonte failed to stop while police pursued him in three counties. The chase ended when the vehicle crashed at the intersection of U.S. 2 & 41 and M-69 in Delta County. He was lodged in the Delta County Jail in lieu of 10 percent of a $50,000 bond.

Prior to LaBonte being sentenced Monday, the owner of the vehicle presented an emotional statement in court expressing concern about who would pay the cost to replace her car, which she relied on to go to work to pay her bills.

LaBonte declined to make a statement in court.

Judge John Economopoulos expressed appreciation for the victim’s statement and told LaBonte, “You didn’t just take a car. You took a means of living for somebody.”

LaBonte was sentenced to six months in jail and was given credit for already serving 101 days. He was ordered to pay $758 in court fines and costs and $5,680 in restitution.

In exchange for LaBonte pleading guilty to unlawful use of a motor vehicle, the prosecution agreed to dismiss one count of unlawful driving away an auto (a five-year felony). The prosecution also agreed to not pursue a fleeing and eluding charge (a five-year felony) or an habitual offense notice.

In addition to Escanaba and Norway police, other agencies which assisted in the arrest and multi-jurisdictional chase last summer were the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department, the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department, the Delta County Sheriff’s Department, Hannahville Tribal Police Department, Michigan State Police, and dispatch centers from Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties. Additional charges are pending against LaBonte in Dickinson County.