Moxley gets probation for driving drunk

Balto. Co. council member plans to speak at schools

September 07, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Councilman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley was granted probation before judgment on a drunken driving charge yesterday -- three months after he crashed his county-owned vehicle into a car stopped along the shoulder on Interstate 695.

The sentence will keep a conviction for driving under the influence off the three-term councilman's record if he successfully completes a year of probation.

But Moxley, 46, said he plans to go beyond the conditions of the probation -- including abstinence from alcohol and attendance at a victim impact panel -- set yesterday by Baltimore County District Judge Jan M. Alexander.

He said he plans to talk about his experiences with students and teachers at two public high schools in his district and at his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph High School. Moxley represents the 1st District, in southwestern Baltimore County.

"I was very blessed that nobody was injured," Moxley said after the hearing. "It's something I'll never forget, and I want people to learn from my mistake."

Moxley's sentence came just more than an hour into a criminal and traffic docket that featured frequent lectures by Alexander on the dangers of drinking and driving.

"I am not the touchy-feely judge," Alexander at one point told a courtroom filled with defendants, attorneys and spectators. "It's got to stop. People are dying out here."

But he also said he felt Moxley's desire to talk to young people and others about his experience could do some good.

Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat first elected to the council in 1994, was arrested during the early morning of June 4 after his blue Chevrolet Trailblazer hit a car whose driver was changing a flat tire on the shoulder of the inner loop of the Beltway north of Wilkens Avenue, said Douglas Dolan, a Harford County prosecutor who handled the case for Baltimore County prosecutors.

Stephen Baily, a deputy state's attorney for Baltimore County, said his office gave the case to Harford to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The officer who responded to the crash noted in a report that the councilman smelled of alcohol, that his speech was slurred and that his eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He had trouble performing a series of field sobriety tests and staggered as he walked but refused later to take a Breathalyzer test at the Woodlawn precinct or to sign the citations, according to the report.

The refusal of the breath test resulted in a 120-day license suspension through the state Motor Vehicle Administration. Moxley said yesterday that family and friends have been shuttling him around since his arrest.

Yesterday, he said in court and in an interview afterward that the feeling of the handcuffs being slapped on his wrists is "still vivid." He said he won't forget the embarrassment or the emotional toll the incident took on him and his family.

"I made a mistake, and this mistake has been public," he told Alexander.

He said he has contacted educators at two public schools in his district -- Catonsville and Lansdowne high schools -- as well as the private Mount St. Joseph.

Stacy Kurnot, executive director of MADD in the state, said that while she is not familiar with Moxley's case, her organization opposes probation before judgment in drunken-driving cases because it allows offenders to "avoid any sanctions."

Recent statistics, which show drunken driving deaths increasing in Maryland but declining nationwide, indicate that the state "needs to do more," she said.

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