The Missoula woman who allegedly ran over a police officer while attempting to evade arrest in January pleaded no contest to assault with a weapon in District Court Tuesday.
Dawnette Eaton, 47, told District Judge Karen Townsend that her mind was impaired by drug use when she backed over Missoula Police Officer Deni Poling, dragging her some distance and leaving her with serious injuries.
Poling and another officer were trying to make contact with Eaton in a McDonald’s parking lot after she violated the terms of her probation.
Also Tuesday, Eaton pleaded guilty to one felony count of fleeing the scene of an accident where someone was killed or seriously injured.
A third felony count of escape was not discussed at the hearing and will presumably be dismissed at sentencing, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks said.
“Due to her drug use at the time, she doesn’t have a clear enough recollection, but she is not disputing the facts,” Marks said.
Marks said that he is requesting a 30-year sentence in the Montana Women’s Prison.
He said some defendants plead no contest because they can’t completely recall what happened during the incident due to drug or alcohol use.
“I’m not in her head,” Marks said. “At the end of the day, only Ms. Eaton knows that for sure.”
Poling and Lt. Officer Rich Stepper approached Eaton while she was sitting in a Pontiac in the McDonald’s parking lot on East Broadway.
Poling and Stepper were planning to arrest the woman for the probation violation.
According to court documents, when Eaton saw the officers, she cracked her steering wheel to one side, put the car in reverse and accelerated at a high speed. Poling was knocked to the ground and dragged under the car.
Stepper ordered the woman to stop and fired one bullet into Eaton’s elbow when she continued to flee.
The woman then contacted her 18-year-old son, Stephen Goodman, who was riding around town with friend Kimberly Inman. Goodman rode with Inman to pick up his mother on Madison Street and took her to his apartment.
Inman called a nurse who she knew to tend to Eaton’s bullet wound, and Goodman asked a neighbor to hide his mother in exchange for methamphetamine.
The trio discussed Eaton fleeing to another state to receive treatment in another hospital.
Eaton asked Inman to retrieve cash, drugs and a wallet from her vehicle, but he was unable to do so because law enforcement had already located the vehicle at a park on Madison Street.
Poling, who was seriously injured in the incident, has returned to work part time.
Inman was given a three-year deferred sentence on a felony charge of obstructing justice. A second felony charge of tampering with evidence was dropped in a plea agreement.
Goodman was sentenced to three years in the Department of Corrections for attempting to hide his mother.
Eaton’s next hearing is set for Oct. 22.