Young LDS Drunk Driver

One of my first assignments in the OC DA’s Office was in the courtroom of Judge Ragnar Engebretsen. Judge Engebretsen was a faithful member of the LDS Church, and a senior high councilor in his stake at the time.

We had completed our work for the day, and I was gathering my case files when the court clerk’s telephone rang.  The clerk answered the phone and then whispered to the judge.  Judge Engebretsen asked if I would remain while he handled a late arraignment.  I agreed.

I was writing notes on my files when I heard the courtroom door open.  I glanced behind me and noticed a 19-year-old young man enter. 

Judge Engebretsen picked up the court file and announced,In the case of the People of the State of California vs. Joseph Fielding Benson.” (Not his real name, but distinctively LDS) That got my attention.

Judge: “Are you Joseph Fielding Benson?” 

Defendant: “Yes, sir.” 

Judge: “That sounds like a Utah name. Are you from Utah?” 

Defendant: “Yes, sir.” 

Judge: “That sounds like a Mormon name. Are you a Mormon?” 

Defendant: [Turned red and gulped] “Yes, sir.” 

Judge: “You are charged with drunk driving. You should know better. I am a high councilor in the Mission Viejo Stake of the church, and Mr. London, the prosecutor sitting at the table next to you, is on the high council in the Garden Grove Stake. . . . Son, you are in trouble!”

Judge: “Do you want to talk to Mr. London to see if you can resolve your case today?”

Defendant: [After doing a couple of double takes between the judge and me] “No, I think I need a lawyer.”

This young man was in court facing drunk driving charges when he should have been serving a mission for the Lord. He forgot that whether we do what’s right or do what’s wrong, the consequences will follow. He forgot to choose the right.


(A personal favorite, and popular, court case. Initially posted 3 years ago, but worth repeating.)

2 thoughts on “Young LDS Drunk Driver

  1. Do you remember another amazing coincidence a few years back when you were the judge on a case and Curtis Hildt was chosen as potential Juror number 11 and I was number 12? We sat next to one another and marveled at the coincidence of us sitting together on your case with the possibility of being chosen as jurors.

    Liked by 1 person

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