In defense of a drunkard?

On the evening of Monday, May 26th, Ryan Jabaay sped through a red light at the intersection of 4th Street and I-90 in Coeur d’Alene. His truck hit a car carrying a mother and her two sons – killing the younger boy. Jabaay was drunk.

To further complicate the tragedy, Jabaay left the scene of the accident. I don’t know if he was running in fear, or if he was running for help. Either way, he will be facing charges for fleeing the scene as well as a DUI. And if this wasn’t enough, this accident was not Jabaay’s first DUI.

I first read about the accident when Dave Olivera posted the Police Department’s press release the next morning. You can read his post HERE, along with several comments. Those comments are quite provocative and are the reason I am writing. I’ll summarize the comments, but you can read through the thread yourself by clicking the link to Dave’s post.

I (like many others in our community) recognized the tragedy for what it is – heartbreak for a family who lost their son, and hopefully a wakeup call for the drunk driver. The first few comments on Dave’s blog were expected notes of sympathy and outrage. One commenter even called Jabaay a monster.

But then a funny thing happened. A week later, friends of Jabaay started posting comments in support of Jabaay – many of them mentioning that Jabaay is a really good guy and all of them saying something along the lines of “WE LOVE YOU RYAN.”

I don’t mind people showing support to a friend who made a mistake, but they appeared to be justifying (or at least excusing) his mistake of driving drunk. I am angered. Not at Ryan Jabaay for his blatant disregard for life when he decided to drive drunk, but at the dozens of comments that seem to shrug it off as if Ryan is the true victim.

Here’s a quick rundown of comments justifying/excusing Ryan’s descision.
· Alcoholism is a disease and he needs help
· He’s hard enough on himself, so he doesn’t need any one saying bad stuff about him
· Only God can judge him
· Drunk driving isn’t the only cause of fatal driving accidents (this person compared drunk driving to someone who isn’t aware that they have epilepsy and has a seizure while driving)
· Many people drive drunk and don’t get caught
· No one took the keys from Ryan because all of his friends live far away in a small town in Washington
· Those criticizing Ryan for driving drunk needs a lesson in humility
· Everyone makes mistakes – the only person that was ever perfect was Jesus
· This is only his second DUI, but his father had three (this person also said perhaps the most idiotic thing I’ve ever read: “and I also understand that most likely every person reading this has put lives in danger like him. But wait.. you're not wrong for doing that unless you actually injure or kill someone...RIGHT??”)

And my personal favorite…

Seriously? I felt sickened after reading through all of the comments from Jabaay’s friends. I actually feel less sympathy for Jabaay now than I did when I first read about the accident. The following is my reply to all of them. (this part is cross-posted in the comments section on HBO)

To the friends of Ryan Jabaay

It is nice that you all want to show your support to Ryan – he is lucky to have friends like you. Although, I think it would be more productive to write letters directly to him in jail. One of you mentioned he’d probably never read this thread, don’t you think letters written to him personally would be far more meaningful than the random anonymous postings here? At least he’d be far more likely to read them.

But before you rallied up your troops in GI Joe gear to show him support or garner some measure of sympathy, you probably should have come up with a more cohesive strategy.

Most of you keep trying to explain what a good guy Ryan was, but I can’t wrap my brain around that description of him. If he really was a good guy he would not have gotten into his truck drunk. We have cab services all over Coeur d’Alene that could have driven him home.

And don’t try to use the “everybody’s driven drunk” excuse with me. It’s just not true. I’ve never been drunk behind the wheel. Never. Not once. I don’t buy that excuse, and neither would a court of law. Before I appeared before a judge for a speeding ticket nine years ago, the judge told the entire courtroom that he would not except “but other people were driving faster than me” as an adequate defense. If that defense doesn’t work for speeding, it won’t work for a DUI.

Speaking of strategies that won’t work in court… stop the “but he’s really a nice guy approach.” Face the facts. He drove drunk and killed a ten year old boy, and then he left the scene. There’s not a jury that will pity him just because he has a good heart.

One of you mentioned that he moved here in hopes to do positive things with his life. How is driving drunk a positive thing? And if he was moving here to start fresh, that tells me that he wasn’t doing positive things with his life there. That doesn’t jive with this good guy image you all want us to see.

And you are the company you keep. Many of you have admitted that you’ve driven after drinking. And if you are his closest friends – drunk driving sounds like his standard operating procedure. Since he all ready has one DUI, and driving while impaired seems to be normal for all of you, I’m having further doubts about how he could possibly be a good guy. I hope he learns from his mistake – but I hope all of you do as well.

Now, I’m not going to call him a bad man, or a monster. I do not know him, nor do I know what kind of person he is. But is human and as a man, he makes mistakes. We all make mistakes. But don’t expect me to feel sorry for him because we are all imperfect. I make mistakes every day. Mistakes come with consequences. I pay for my mistakes. Ryan needs to do the same. But what separates my mistakes from Ryan’s is that my mistakes have never resulted in the murder of an innocent stranger. And I will call it murder because it was not an accident. He made a choice that resulted in death. No one accidentally drives drunk. It just doesn’t happen.

And since you brought God into the argument, let’s take a look at how God views Ryan’s choices, his drunkenness, and the death he caused.
· You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13)
· Anyone who strikes a man and kills him shall surely be put to death. (Exodus 21:12)
· Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:20-21)
· It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones (children) to sin. (Luke 17:2)
· Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness (Romans 13:13)
· Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. (Ephesians 5:18)
I hope you get the point.

Finally, as a citizen, I am outraged at the loss of life caused by those who choose to drive drunk. This includes Ryan, but he is not the only one to cause such a tragic loss of life. Alcohol and vehicles don’t mix; I am sick and tired of people like Ryan who think otherwise.

But as a father who deeply knows the pain of losing a child, I am angered by the callous comments posted here by those of you who claim to be Ryan’s friends. To say we’re all as guilty as him is heartless and shows nothing but spite for the Frisbee family. To compare drunk driving to an epileptic seizure not only insults those who suffer from epilepsy, but is an affront on all who have lost a loved one to drunk driving. And Brittany’s comment that we all put lives in danger just like Ryan is more than simple naïveté, it is arrogant and pretentious.

Please show your support of your friend. But think before you write. And if you’re going to get drunk, don’t be an idiot – get a ride.


  1. It's amazing how people can be so ignorant and hurtful, by defending someone's actions because he was a "nice guy". That's sick his friends are trying to make this jerk look like the victim. I can't imagine what the family of the ten year old boy is going through. Those idiots need to be ashamed of themselves for writing such classless crap.

  2. Well written and very forthright. Every time I drive by our cemetery on 88th, mentally, it is still, "Marshall, how are you doing?" Drunken driving causes this memory to never fade. Doing his funeral is sharp and crisp in my mind. No one, as you wrote, should ever have to experience this preventable tragedy-ever.

  3. Anonymous8:03 AM

    I stumbled upon the huckleberries(sp) and have seemingly done the same with this one. I am Ryan's cousin...I posted on the other site. The reason I even wrote anything was because he is not a monster, and that is all, I never said lay off because he's hurting, or lay off because he already feels bad enough. Now my comment that the only perfect person on this earth was Jesus i believe was a good point. We are not supposed to judge people...but as a fallen people it is in our nature. I felt and still feel that that particular blog has taken a bad turn. It should not have gotten to the point that it has. The things said about my cousin I might not agree with them (monster etc) but I can see how people think that way. I have three kids of my own. I in no way think Ryan should not pay for what he has done. I wanted people to realize that Ryan's family my stumble upon this sites and see them. As a grown man Ryan is responsible for his actions, nobody else! His parents and siblings are not. Most of the post on the other site would be terrible for them to read and the frisbie family also. My personal favorite is about the father of sawyer also getting dui's. Absolutely does not need to be said. I just wish it would have been more civil, more support for the frisbie family, I am truley sad for them. SMB

  4. I am a friend of the Frisbie family and this is a terrible loss for them. Sawyer was my daughters friend. He would sit on my doorstep and wait for her to do her chores, so they could play. This is a tragedy for everyone involved. For the family, friends of Sawyer as well as the family and friends of Ryan. I am thankful that Pat "sawyers dad" has shared his story with others, with the hope that someone might think about this tragedy and change there lives. I know it has changed his life. This is not a time to place blame. What is done is done. It is unfortunate. Ryan will have to pay for what has happened, both internally and with society. No one but Ryan can really understand what he is going through and how the choices he has made effected his life and the lives of others. I pray that he can come to terms with what he has done and find some peace of mind. As for the Frisbie family, they will live with a different kind of pain. The loss of a child is one of the hardest things to have to deal with. There is an emptimess that can never be replaced. I continue to pray for Christian who lost his brother and best friend, Pat and Kaye who lost there son and for everyone that has been effected by this tragedy.

    Sawyer is in a good place, he is now with Jesus and resting in peace.

  5. I was locked up with Ryan for the entire 6 months. Well, he actually did 9 months county awaiting trial, and then got what they call a "rider" in Cottonwood (the NICI program). I was his cellmate in Boise Penitentiary, and I was in NICI with him for the whole 4 months. We rode back home together from NICI on the same jail bus. In conclusion, the guy is a douche bag who hangs on to religion too strongly. Organized religion is bull shit in the first place. I've drove drunk before and I very well could have hurt/killed people, so I won't judge on that note. But the guy is just kind of a douche bag.

  6. Ryan Jabaay .... went to high school with the guy. Was a complete jerk to me at school. But he had seen me at a party and became so sweet. Even offered me a ride home. Well, the ride home ended up being a nightmare. Ryan I can give a f**k less what you think about god. What you did to me was so out of control. And made all kinds of stories to top it off. As I go to school get threats, glares and disrespect. This does not shock me in the least he would have something like this happen in his life. I feel so sorry for the family who's life he ruined forever.Including a small part of mine.Karma works in strange ways, but this is so sad for the family he hurt.

  7. Anonymous1:21 PM

    I saw this and wanted to comment...it is now over 2 years later....this guy Ryan got only 2 years for killing Sawyer Frisby and I looked him up on the Idaho Correction Website back in May of this year...he was on probation...now I can't locate him on this same site, today being October 19, 2010...so he continues on with his life.....the repeat offender....while Sawyer's family has to deal daily with their loss....when is Idaho going to do something about these drunks!

  8. Anonymous4:08 PM

    I know him, he was a drunk moron in school and probably still is a drunk moron now. I bet this didn't change anything and he is probably still a drunken loser. If he had killed my son, I would have probably killed him myself. He is truly a loser and should never even be let to roam free for murdering some ones child.