On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, Jaycob Morris Ponder, 33, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was convicted of Driving While Intoxicated Third Or More. Generally, a person found guilty of this third-degree offense would serve between 2 to 10 years in prison. Due to his criminal history, Ponder faced a punishment rage of 25 to 99 years in prison.
The conviction and sentence stem from a March 9, 2019, traffic stop by the Texas Highway Patrol in which Ponder’s tires were observed crossing the center lane divider twice while northbound on SH-321 in Dayton. Upon contact, Ponder was observed to have slurred speech and trouble keeping his balance. After field sobriety tests indicated intoxication, Ponder was arrested. Lab reports showed his blood alcohol content at .266, more than three times the legal limit.
Ponder was indicted by Grand Jury on May 1, 2019. He pled guilty of the offense and “True” to the punishment enhancement allegations. The case was set for a contested sentencing hearing before Judge Chap B. Cain III, Presiding Judge of the 253rd District Court. At the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Nicole Washington presented evidence that Ponder was not a suitable candidate for probation. The Court heard testimony that Ponder had 5 prior DWI convictions, re-offended while on probation, while on bond, and while on parole for DWI offenses, had not accepted responsibility for his recidivism, and never successfully completed any alcohol treatment program. In closing arguments, ADA Washington stated, “There isn’t a momma or daddy in this county who would put their child on the same roadway as Ponder.” Because there was neither program, class, nor sanction that would protect the citizens of Liberty County, ADA Washington implored the Court for a lengthy prison sentence.
Defense Counsel argued that Ponder had never received treatment for alcohol abuse and implored the Court for probation with a SAFP (pronounced “Safe P”) condition. SAFP is a three-part substance abuse treatment program for individuals on felony probation who have been identified as having either a drug and/or alcohol problem. The initial phase is a six-month confinement in a secure facility. Phase two is residence in a transitional treatment center, or halfway house, for successful transition back into the community. In the final phase, the participant is released to the community to complete an outpatient treatment program while continuing to adhere to probation conditions. Defense Counsel presented several letters from supporters, who urged the Court to give Ponder a second chance.
Judge Cain agreed with the State. Ponder will have to account for once-fourth of his sentence, before becoming eligible for parole.
Assistant District Attorney Washington: “Ponder has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for his actions. His selfishness could have easily maimed or killed innocent bystanders as well as the brave men and women of law enforcement who has been tasked with the duty of keeping us safe. Thankfully, justice was served and Ponder will be separated from our community for the foreseeable future.”
District Attorney Jennifer Bergman: “Ponder is a habitual offender who has made it a habit of trying to avoid accountability. On Tuesday February 22, 2022, Judge Cain helped make sure that accountability finally caught up to him, and he will have at least a decade to think about his actions and bad choices. Our office will continue fighting to keep our roads safe and making sure that impaired drivers are held accountable for their poor choices.”