Beauty Queen hits four cars, knocks down light pole and knocks out power, charged with DUI


Sarah_RichardsonA New Mexico beauty queen has resigned her title of Miss Las Cruces after a DUI accident that took down a light pole, resulting in power being knocked out to nearby hotels.

According to

A Las Cruces beauty queen isn’t smiling because she won the crown.

Sarah J. Richardson’s latest photo shoot was her mug shot after being arrested for aggravated DWI in Las Cruces on Sunday.

Las Cruces police said around 10 p.m. on Sunday, Richardson, 22, crashed her PT Cruiser into a light pole at the intersection of Avenida De Mesilla and Hickory Drive. The pole fell over, hitting a nearby traffic light.

The crash left hundreds of nearby businesses and homes in the dark after the power was knocked out. El Paso Electric said about 1,700 customers were left without power from Sunday night into the early morning hours on Monday.

“You couldn’t see anything except the lights from the cop cars and all the accident,” one witness told ABC-7.

Police said several cars driving through the area got tangled in the fallen wires and debris.

“Power lines were down everywhere. The transformer that was on the corner with the light pole was taken down. They drug them up the street and that was a problem with all the electric,” a witness said.

Nearby hotels were packed with guests in town for New Mexico State University’s commencement ceremony. They were all left without power.

Hotel managers were forced to give out thousands of dollars in refunds.

Some hotels are still working to fix electrical issues from the crash.

Sam Donaldson arrested for DUI in Delaware

donaldsonLongtime ABC news veteran Sam Donaldson has been arrested for a DUI in Delaware, according to Delaware 105.9 radio:

Longtime ABC News anchor and political correspondent Sam Donaldson faces a day in court following his recent arrest in Lewes for DUI.

Police Chief Jeff Horvath tells Delaware 105.9 that an officer pulled Donaldson over on Savannah Road on the evening of December 1st because he had driven onto the shoulder.

The 78-year-old northern Virginia resident failed a field sobriety test, was charged and released.

Horvath adds that Donaldson was cooperative throughout the incident.

Two Seattle cops charged in “seat switching” DUI case

A rare, but not unheard of situation occurs when a drunk passenger switches seats with a drunk driver (usually because the passenger is less drunk than the driver), and then they are both arrested for DUI.  I once represented a couple where this happened.  But this case in Seattle is even more unusual — both people charged were off-duty police officers.  And they were belligerent too.

From the Seattle Times:

Two off-duty Seattle police officers, including one described as extremely combative and foul-mouthed, were arrested for investigation of driving under the influence after they allegedly switched seats in a car believed to be involved in a hit-and-run collision early Monday in the Sodo District.

The case will be referred to the City Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges of hit-and-run and driving under the influence against both officers, who were not identified in redacted police reports.

One of the officers, a female, registered blood-alcohol levels of 0.234 percent and 0.247 percent, above the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent, according to a Seattle police report.

In the course of the testing, she cursed at the arresting officer, acted in an aggressive manner and gave him the middle finger in a North Precinct room equipped with a video camera, the report said.

Twice, the woman, who cried at times, tried to rush the arresting officer, only to be held back by a sergeant, the report said. She told the officer and sergeant she was driving her boyfriend around.

The other officer taken into custody registered blood-alcohol levels of 0.161 and 0.149 percent, according to a second police report.

The incident began when officers responded shortly after midnight Monday to a report of a collision near the intersection of First Avenue South and South Lander Street.

A witness had called police and reported that a woman was driving a Nissan Altima with what a police spokesman later described as having significant front-end damage.

The woman allegedly stopped the car in the middle of the street and switched places with a man in the passenger seat, according to a police statement.

Officers searching the area found the car several blocks south at First Avenue South and South Brandon Street. The car was two to three feet from the curb, with the engine running and “in the roadway,” the statement said.

Officers recognized the two people in the car as off-duty Seattle officers who appeared to have been drinking, according to the statement.

The woman’s speech was slurred and she appeared unsteady with bloodshot, watery eyes, according to the police report describing her actions.

The man, found in the driver’s seat with the engine on, had a strong odor of intoxicants.

He said he had had a couple of beers and didn’t know how the crash happened, the second police report stated.

A captain was called to the scene, along with officers assigned to a “Target Zero” holiday emphasis patrol.

The female officer was arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence; the other officer was arrested on suspicion of being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.

Traffic detectives were investigating whether the car struck a light pole or some other object, said Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, the department’s chief spokesman.

Both officers were released after their arrest under ordinary procedures, the department’s statement said. The Altima, which is not a city vehicle, was impounded as part of the investigation.

The case also was referred to the department’s Office of Professional Accountability for an internal investigation.

A few celebrity DUI updates

Here are some updates on previously “celebrity DUI” cases that I have blogged about:

bushduiMatt Bush, the former first overall pick in the MLB draft, was sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison for an aggravated DUI involving serious physical injuries.  As I blogged before, Mr. Bush was alleged to have struck a 72 year old motorcyclist, and drove over the man’s head.  Bush then fled the scene.  He later was determined to have a 0.18 blood alcohol concentration.  Bush was released by the Tampa Bay Rays in October.

According to, Bush and his attorneys were presented with two alternative sentences by prosecutors:  he could choose to serve only three years in prison, but with seven years of probation, or four years in prison without probation.  According to the story, neither Bush (who has a history of alcohol related offenses) or his attorney had faith in his ability to avoid a new offense.  Wow.

jamalFormer Atlanta Falcons’ running back Jamal Anderson had his DUI dropped, and he plead guilty to reckless driving.  He was placed on 12 months probation, ordered to perform 64 hours of community service and pay fines.  Anderson had been arrested in June and has always proclaimed his innocence.

struthers“All in the Family” actress Sally Struthers plead not guilty to her pending OUI case in the State of Maine, and her case has been scheduled for a bench trial on February 13, 2013.  Struthers had denied the allegations against her when she was first arrested in September.

brentThe Cowboys and the NFL have announced that defensive tackle Josh Brent, who has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the alcohol related death of teammate Jerry Brown, will not be allowed to stand on the sidelines during games.  Brent had been invited to stand on the sidelines by one of his teammates last weekend, without the knowledge of the Cowboys.

The 60 Minutes segment that examines wrong-headed Cook County prosecutions

Just watch the 60 Minutes video.  It is devastating and shows the mind-set of way too many police and prosecutors.  This is more evidence as to why you should never speak to the police if you are suspected of committing a crime.


mosaic_anita143x176I have previously written how Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez has lead a national effort to jail citizens who film police in public — a major deterrent to the use of the single most important technology in fighting police abuse. She was previously criticized by the Seventh Circuit for her “extreme” arguments to strip citizens of their first amendment rights. Now Alvarez has added to her rather notorious reputation with a bizarre claim as part of a 60 minutes piece on a litany of wrongful convictions by her office. She suggests that the fact that a serial rapist’s DNA was found on the body was not proof of the innocence of five teens because he might have come across the girl’s dead body later and had sex with it.

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Did a Police Officer post a video of himself driving drunk at 100 mph?

According to a local ABC channel, a San Francisco police sergeant posted a video to his Facebook page claiming to be him driving drunk at 100 mph through a tunnel, in a Lamborghini.  With friends in the car. The video is embedded above.

The matter is now under investigation and the sergeant has removed the video from his Facebook page.  Too bad for him that the internet has a big memory.

Personally, I think there is something fishy about this video.  This happened in broad daylight.  The tunnel is empty.  We don’t see or hear any of the occupants of the car.

My guess is that the sergeant thought it would be funny to make up a “tall tale” to go along with the video and it backfired.

However, if I am wrong and the original story is correct, this Sergeant is going to wish that he never heard of Facebook.


Cook County Courts get it wrong with new cell phone ban

nophoneJust a few days after I blogged about cell phones in courts, Cook County Presiding Judge Timothy Evans announced that the public will not be allowed to bring camera phones into any of the thirteen Cook County Courthouses that have criminal cases (except, apparently, the Daley Center, which does have some misdemeanor traffic courtrooms).

According to the Sun-Times:

Evans said in a prepared statement Tuesday that several judges who preside over court cases told him they were concerned “that people attending court proceedings were using their cell phones to photograph witnesses, judges, jurors, and prospective jurors. They also said persons appeared to be texting testimony to witnesses waiting their turn to testify outside the courtroom, while others were attempting to stream live to media comments by judges from the bench.”

“The court is sending a strong message to gang members and others that any attempts to intimidate witnesses, jurors, and judges in court will not be permitted,” Evans said in his statement. “The ban will help to ensure that justice is properly done by preserving the integrity of testimony and maintaining court decorum.”

The ban will be in place at 13 court facilities where criminal cases are heard and kick in Jan. 14th.

Violators could be slapped with a contempt of court charge.

Update:  here is the link to Judge Evan’s press release:

This is a truly foolish rule, but not surprising since it is brought by the County that still uses a DOS like system for its court records, lacks wi-fi, does not scan orders and otherwise has barely moved into the 1990s.

These days, virtually everyone carries a cell phone that has a camera in it. Most have phones that are used for calendars, texting, e-mail and internet. All of these things can be helpful to a litigant. If my clients are told not to bring their cell phones to court, how will I be able to contact them to find out where they are when they are running late, and how will they be able to contact me if they have forgotten their courtroom number? Often, they need to contact someone or get information from their phone, such as photos of a damaged vehicle, copies of their insurance information or the phone number of a witness.

I know that I use my phone constantly at court (though not in the courtroom) to keep in contact with clients, use my calendar, and do basic legal research.

By the way, there are hardly any more pay phones at the Cook County courthouses, except I think at 26th Street. They were rendered irrelevant by cell phones and removed years ago. What is someone to do at a courthouse if they need to make a phone call?

I am not aware of a great problem with gang members using camera phones inside a courthouse to intimidate witnesses. If there is such a problem, then the courts should be able to deal with that problem. Most criminal courtrooms have multiple deputy sheriffs stationed inside. They should be able to notice and deal with someone photographing a witness, or respond if anyone complains.

Keep in mind too that while the five suburban courthouses that are covered by this ban have a handful of felony courtrooms, they also have civil courtrooms that hear landlord/tenant, contract, personal injury, divorce and custody cases, to name a few. What do these cases have to do with gangsters?

I have seen this nonsense at the main courthouse in Wheaton in DuPage County. People stand on long security lines only to be sent away to put their phones back in their cars, after they have reached the front of the line. Last Friday, I had a client who was delayed by over 20 minutes because of this.

And even though Wheaton is a busy courthouse, I suspect that some of the suburban Cook County courthouses are even busier. What will happen when over 1,000 people are turned away from the doors of the Markham Courthouse at 9:00 a.m. because they have camera phones? What are people supposed to do with them if they came by public transportation and don’t have a car to place them in?

The Cook County Courts have really over-reacted on this one. This was not well-thought out and was probably spurred on by the same judges who balked at using computers a few years ago as opposed to handwriting each order. Of course, they won’t mind, since it won’t affect them.

The only Boulder CO cop whose sole assignment is DUI was … arrested for DUI

Yes, you re reading that headline correctly.  The only police officer on the Boulder, Colorado police force whose sole assignment is DUI was … arrested for DUI.

According to the local CBS station:

A Boulder police officer told a fellow officer, who noticed her pulled over on the side of the road, “I’m drunk.”

Officer Elizabeth Ward was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving on Tuesday.

According to a police report, Ward, 36, was driving on Tuesday along Interstate 25 in Thornton when she pulled over to the side of the road.

She was reportedly driving 40 mph in a 60 mph zone and swerving in between lanes before she pulled over on her own.

A fellow officer who noticed she had pulled over asked her why she stopped.

According to the report, Ward replied, “I’m drunk.”

The officer attempted to give her a field sobriety test but Ward replied, “No, I’m not going to be able to do it.”

Click here for the full story and video:

By the way, this officer was the second Boulder, CO police officer to be arrested for DUI this month.

Dallas Cowboy and former Illini Brent charged in DUI death of teammate

brentJoshua Brent and Jerry Brown, Jr. were teammates at the University of Illinois, and again with the Dallas Cowboys.  But now they will always be thought together because of a tragic accident, which authorities are blaming on alcohol.  If proved, Brent will join NFL players Donte Stallworth and Leonard Little in the Hall of Shame for all causing a death while drunk driving.

According to the Chicago Tribune:

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Josh Brent was arrested for drunk driving and charged with manslaughter on Saturday after a car he was driving crashed and killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr, in the second tragedy involving NFL players in a week.

Police in the Dallas suburb of Irving said that Brent, 24, was driving at high speed on a state highway at 2:21 a.m. when the car slammed into an “outside curb, causing the vehicle to flip at least one time before coming to rest in the middle of the service road.”

Brown, who had been in the passenger seat, was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital a short time later. Brent suffered “minor scrapes” and was booked into the Irving jail, where he remained on Saturday awaiting arraignment, police said.

“Officers at the scene believed alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash,” police said, adding that Brent was given a sobriety test. “Based on the results and the officer’s observations and conversations with Price-Brent, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated,” Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz said at a news conference.

“I am devastated and filled with grief,” Brent said in a statement released by his agent Saturday night. “Filled with grief for the loss of my close friend and teammate, Jerry Brown. I am also grief-stricken for his family, friends and all who were blessed enough to have known him.

“I will live with this horrific and tragic loss every day for the rest of my life. My prayers are with his family, our teammates and his friends at this time.”…

Brent remained in jail on Saturday and his bond will be set at his Sunday morning arraignment, police said. The drunk driving charge was upgraded to intoxication manslaughter, a second degree felony which is punishable in Texas by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

When police arrived on the scene of the accident after several 911 calls, part of the car was on fire. The 2007 Mercedes sedan was resting on its roof in the middle of the road, and Brent was dragging Brown out of the burning car, said Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz at a news conference.

Police believe, based on gouge marks and other physical evidence at the scene, that Brown was driving faster than the posted 45 miles per hour speed limit…

Brent has been arrested for drunk driving before. While he was on the University of Illinois football team, he was arrested February 23, 2009, on a drunk driving charge, according to Champaign, Illinois, county records. He spent time in the county jail and was suspended from the team, according to local media reports. He eventually left school and was drafted by the Cowboys.

Brent and Brown were teammates at Illinois from 2007-09 under then-coach Ron Zook. Brent was suspended in 2009 after a DUI arrest.

It is not that unusual for a DUI fatality to involve family or friends who are passengers in the vehicle.  In Illinois, anyone who is found guilty of a DUI is required to attend a “victim impact panel” where the victims of drunk driving accidents (or the drunk driver himself) tell their stories.  Many times, those stories involve brothers and sisters or best friends.

So as we go through another holiday season, please remember to be safe and don’t drink and drive.

Using a cell phone in court? Think twice about it

I did not have a cell phone until several years after I started practicing law.  If I needed to make a phone call, I had to use one of the several pay phones that they used to have in the courthouse.  For my schedule, I had to use a printed calendar.  To get e-mail, I had to get back to my desktop in the office.  Although I rarely received any legal-related e-mails back then.

Obviously, things have changed a lot since then. Most everyone has a cell phone, and many of them have a smart phone.

One thing that hasn’t changed much in the intervening years are the courthouse rules.

As a general rule, you cannot bring a camera into a courthouse.  In many courthouses, this is extended to phones with cameras, meaning that you cannot bring your phone into the courthouse.  Just today, a client of mine was delayed by at least 20 minutes because he was told by security that he couldn’t bring his camera phone into the courthouse, so he had to return it to his car and get back in line.

You also can’t use a cell phone inside a courtroom.   Today, I saw a story of a 21 year old woman who was arrested and charged with felony offenses when she began talking (loudly) on her cell phone during court proceedings, ignoring orders to stop from the judge and sheriff, and finally getting into an altercation with court officers.

While this woman’s actions were pretty extreme, its not that surprising because many of us have become so used to using our phones constantly that we expect to be able to continue to use them everywhere that we go.

So a few quick reminders:

  • You probably should find out in advance whether courthouse security will allow you to bring a camera phone into the building at all, before you spend 10 minutes in a security line only to get turned away.  In my experience, the courthouse in Wheaton is the most stringent about this rule; the Daley Center is the least (probably because there are too many people entering the building, and most of them arrived via public transportation and can’t just return to the parking lot to store their phone).
  • If you are able to bring your phone into the courthouse, do not:
  • 1.  Take pictures anywhere inside the courthouse;
  • 2.  Leave the ringer on — turn your phone to silent, vibrate or off;
  • 3.  Look at your phone inside a courtroom;
  • 4.  Text or e-mail in a courtroom;
  • 5.  Take or make phone calls in a courtroom.
  • 6.   If you do talk on a cell phone (in a hallway or area where cell phones are allowed), remember to keep your voice quiet, and keep an even tone.  You do not want to be disruptive while court is in progress, nor do you want judges or courtroom personnel to overhear you saying things that might be harmful to your case, or things that may make you unsympathetic.  If you are really angry with someone, save that argument for another time and place.

The consequences for violating these rules vary:  the judge or sheriff might confiscate your phone if it goes off while court is in session (and you might not get it back until the end of the day, if ever) whereas you might be prosecuted for taking pictures inside a courthouse.