Former Harford official pleads guilty to DUI

Robert Wagner, who was president of the County Council for years, gets probation, fine

May 11, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Reporter

Saying he had been humbled, humiliated and helped by a drunken-driving arrest, Robert S. Wagner, former president of the Harford County Council, pleaded guilty yesterday to driving under the influence.

Wagner, 50, spoke candidly in Harford District Court about driving his pickup truck to a Bel Air assisted living facility to visit his mother on the morning of Oct. 16, 2006. Sheriff's deputies arrested Wagner about 11:30 a.m. after he admitted to drinking vodka and driving his vehicle.

A witness had reported seeing him fall out of his truck. A police report said Wagner told deputies that he had been drinking about 8:30 a.m. and then got into his truck and drove for about an hour, ending up at Catered Living. Deputies found him sitting in his truck, which was pulled across two parking spots.

Yesterday, visiting Judge A. Gordon Boone Jr. expressed concern over Wagner's 0.21 blood-alcohol level recorded by police at the scene.

"The worst part of this is for a person in your position," Boone said. "You are a bright guy, and I understand the embarrassment. But I am concerned that you didn't think before you got behind the wheel."

Wagner was defeated in the primary election last summer after 16 years on the council, and the arrest occurred the day before Wagner's last council meeting as president. He said he had been despondent and drinking at home, combining alcohol with his diabetes medication.

Wagner's case followed several other drunken-driving defendants on a busy day in court, and Boone grilled them all about the circumstances of their incident. He mentioned the arrest of Steve McNair, the Baltimore Ravens quarterback who was charged Wednesday in Tennessee with driving under the influence.

A Republican who was first elected to the council in 1990 and became president in 2002, Wagner did not escape the judge's scrutiny.

"You have a tolerance for alcohol," Boone said. "You can drink a lot of booze and not show it."

Wagner, a farmer and lifelong Harford resident, told the judge he has completed a recovery program.

Boone placed Wagner on 18 months' unsupervised probation and fined him $500, with $250 suspended, adding that his years of public service and a previously spotless driving record were taken into consideration.

Wagner paid his fine and said, "I won't be back here."

However, he pointed to the county offices and said, "I will be back there."

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