Thursday, October 02, 2014

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Former Congressman Pleads Guilty To Drunk Driving Charges

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Former Staten Island Congressman Vito Fossella pleaded guilty Monday to drunk driving charges at his second trial in Alexandria, Virginia.

He will report to a Virginia jail this Friday at 6 p.m. to begin serving the remaining four days of his sentence. Fossella was sentenced to five days in jail, but he gets credit for the night he spent in jail when he was arrested.

Additionally, he was fined $250, has his license suspended for one year, and must complete an alcohol treatment program.

His attorney said Fossella will apply for a conditional license, which would allow him to go to and from work, pick up his children at school, go to medical appointments, and drive to the alcohol treatment classes.

The former lawmaker was not expected to enter a plea Monday. Instead, jury selection was scheduled to take place in a new trial.

Fossella appealed his five-day jail sentence in December, after a judge found him guilty of a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.

Under Virginia law, that appeal triggered an automatic retrial before a jury.

Fossella was arrested last May after police pulled him over for running a red light. Police say he was found to have a blood-alcohol level that was twice the legal limit in the state of Virginia.

Defense attorneys had claimed Fossella was not drunk, and had questioned the accuracy of a breathalyzer test.

On Monday, his attorneys said that Fossella decided not to fight the conviction after his team was unable to get the software for the breathalyzer machine.

His attorneys also cited the death of Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and his two friends as another reason for entering the plea. Adenhart was killed last week by a drunk driver.

"He's given this a lot of thought. In this atmosphere of drinking and driving, particularly in this timing with that tragedy that happened in California," said Fossella's attorney Jerry Phillips.

Following his arrest, Fossella was forced to admit that he fathered a child during an extra-marital affair. He also decided not to seek re-election.

Meanwhile, Staten Island residents and elected officials had mixed reactions to Fossella's guilty plea.

"I think whatever he did, he can't make up for what he did, but if they punish him, they punish him. That's it," said Gus Valuklis, a Huguenot resident.

"He's a good man then, he took responsibility and that's it. I would vote for him tomorrow," said Bob Kilichowski, a Staten Island resident.

Staten Island councilman James Oddo says it's time for Fossella to work on restoring his family image before his political one.

"From my perspective all I care about is that the person, the human being gets to heal and he continues to heal his family," said Oddo.

Fossella represented Staten Island first as a City Council member and then as a congressman for a total of 14 years.

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