Rubin: How a man with 13 DUIs is out and driving again

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

The Mount Clemens man who qualified for his 14th drunken-driving conviction last week has not had a valid driver’s license since 1983.

Zenon Bialokur has 12 current suspensions of his license and enough revocations that even if he cared about legalities, he wouldn’t be able to apply to drive until 2025.

Seven days ago, westbound on Market Street, a mile from his home, Bialokur ran a red light at Gratiot in a relative’s 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix. When he was pulled over by a Macomb County sheriff’s deputy, a nearly empty bottle of Crown Royal was on the passenger seat. After he failed field sobriety exams, tests at the county jail measured his blood alcohol content at .18 and .19, more than twice the legal limit of .08.

Word spread after his arraignment Tuesday, and the only sensible response was outrage, whether it was expressed in living rooms or on Facebook or internally for anyone who read the story:

Why wasn’t he in prison?

The answer: Because this is America and we have laws and it’s part of what makes us who we are, even when it doesn’t seem like enough.

At 54, Bialokur has more than two dozen aliases listed by the Michigan Department of Corrections and a driving record that takes up 12 pages in 11-point type.

He is Zeno Bilock, Gino Pacella, Caleese Zino and Zino Caleese. According to Secretary of State and prison records, he has been caught drunk behind the wheel in Detroit, Mount Clemens, Romeo, Clinton Township, Fraser and Harper Woods.

He’s been to prison four times, most recently in 2014 for domestic violence. According to MDOC spokesman Chris Gautz, he’s been in jail at least 18 times for violent or vehicular offenses.

The only periods he stopped driving appear to be when he was behind bars, including a stretch in Illinois for operating under the influence in the late 1990s. It’s remarkable that he hasn’t killed himself or anyone else.

“I’ve read the inflammatory comments,” says Lt. John Michalke of the sheriff’s department. “ ‘Why do they let him drive?’ ‘He should be locked up forever.’ ”

That’s passion talking. It’s reality on the phone when Michalke points out that nobody lets him drive, but in a free society, nobody can truly stop him. And it’s reality that in Michigan, a third drunken-driving conviction is a felony that gets you five years maximum, and the 13th carries the same penalty as the third.

Bialokur is a menace, and from afar, he seems toxic. The names of his children are tattooed on his chest — a son who’s on probation for retail fraud, and a daughter listed as a probation absconder after a cocaine conviction.

But we do not give life sentences for drunken driving, and we do not change that on the spur of the moment when we are outraged.

Some of Bialokur's convictions predate the law carrying up to a five-year penalty -- a sentence, prosecutors say, that usually means only 2 1/2 years behind bars.

His many stretches in county jail indicate sentences of one year or less. The last time he was imprisoned for drunk driving was a 2 1/2-year term from 2010-2012.

Assuming he is convicted, Bialokur might draw a longer stretch this time as a habitual offender. The legislature might decide to tack on more years for extra violations, in case he does it again. Space in overcrowded prisons might miraculously become available.

For now, we only know we’d be free of him for awhile, according to rules crafted by people we elect.

“We have a criminal justice system,” Michalke says, “and it’s the best one in the world” — even, or maybe especially, when it makes us sputter.