Preliminary results show suspect was driving with a BAC of 0.297 percent

By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — A 53-year-old man facing felony drunken driving charges was sent home from work shortly before his arrest because he was intoxicated, according to court documents.

James Haataja of Rothschild faces charges filed Tuesday in Marathon County Circuit Court of sixth offense drunken driving. He remains jailed on a probation hold. A judge also ordered a $5,000 cash bond should the hold be lifted.

Police were alerted at about 9:15 p.m. on Friday, May 25 to be on the lookout for Haataja, who had been dismissed from his shift at the Eastbay Distribution Center due to his alleged intoxication, according to court filings. A cab was called for Haataja, but the suspect left in his own pickup before the cab could arrive.

An officer patrolling Stewart Avenue located Haataja, who was driving eastbound, and pulled him over near the intersection of Jefferson and First Streets in downtown Wausau minutes later.

Haataja initially denied drinking and told officers he had been struck on the head by a shipment while working, according to the police report. After failing field sobriety tests, officers administered a breath test which showed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.297 percent. The legal limit for driving in Wisconsin is 0.08 percent, but Haataja is subject to a limit of 0.02 percent due to his prior convictions.

Court records show Haataja was convicted previously of OWI twice in 1991, then again in 2003, 2006 and in 2015. He was on probation stemming from his 2015 conviction at the time of his arrest on Friday.

A preliminary hearing is set for June 6.