Clarification regarding Nikolai Khabibulin's 'Extreme DUI' trial; Could he end up in 'Tent City'?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for khabibulindui.jpgAs a member of a generation raised on Mountain Dew and X-Games-type advertising, the word “extreme” often elicits a grin or a snicker. The word makes me picture a toasted hippie hovering impossibly above my head on a snowboard. Yet all humor is zapped from the situation when the word “extreme” is followed by “DUI charges.”

That is the sad case of troubled Edmonton Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who will face a bench trial for an Extreme DUI on August 27. He originally wanted a jury trial, but changed his mind and now will see a judge only.

The Edmonton Oilers SBNation blog Copper & Blue spoke with two Arizona-area law experts (Attorney Dave Maleta and The Law Offices of David Michael Cantor) to clarify some of the conjecture regarding the case against “The Bulin Wall.” As you may or may not recall, we discussed the possibility that a conviction might give the Oilers an opportunity to get out from underneath the aging Russian goalie’s problematic contract. (Copper & Blue states emphatically that Oilers GM Steve Tambellini has been “unwavering” in his support of Khabibulin, so the Oilers might not make such a move even if they have a chance. Then again, maybe they will.)

It’s a great read, but let me highlight some of the most important bits.

Attorney Maletta noted that “an Aggravated DUI is a felony, but an Extreme DUI is still a misdemeanor. Extreme DUIs carry a mandatory minimum of thirty days in jail, with a maximum of six months in jail, alcohol counseling, an interlock device placed on the vehicle for one year, fines, probation, and a ninety-day driver’s license suspension.”

If Khabibulin is convicted, he will spend at least thirty days in jail. I asked Maletta if that time would be spent in a prison or a city lockup. In some jurisdictions, that might be the case; in fact, “in some jurisdictions, home arrest might be an option,” Maletta said. But not in Maricopa County: “DUI convicts serve their sentence in Tent City at the County Jail. It’s an outside jail, where men sleep in army tents.”

Tent City, referred to as “an American gulag”, is the outdoor extension of the Maricopa County Jail. The facility is a giant pen, enclosed by chain link fencing and razor wire, where prisoners are housed in army surplus tents. The prisoners sleep, eat, and live outdoors in the Arizona weather.

The article is more than 10 years old, but click here if you want to read some fairly stunning facts about “Tent City.” As a Texas resident, I’m almost a little surprised that the also-brutal Texas summer isn’t being used to torment prisoners in the Lone Star State. (Then again, I might just be unaware of such a setup … or maybe the state just doesn’t want to deal with all of the law suits).

As the story states, Khabibulin could face at least a month in jail if convicted. Considering the late-August trial date, that could mean that he’ll miss a huge chunk of training camp and possibly some of the regular season. It might be an ugly situation, but it’s a case worth watching. Especially considering the fact that Antti Niemi’s free agent freedom could depend on a lack of freedom for Khabibulin.