- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Former Rep. Vito Fossella pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges in a Virginia court on Monday, the day a jury trial was to begin in the case that ruined his political career. The former congressman said he was moved in part by last week’s drunken-driving accident that killed a Los Angeles Angels pitcher.

Attorneys for the Staten Island Republican _ whose May 1 arrest led to revelations he had fathered a child from an extramarital affair _ had planned to fight Fossella’s five-day sentence in Alexandria, Va., with arguments that the breath-test machine police used was faulty. Police say the test showed Fossella’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, well above the legal limit.

Defense attorney Barry Pollack said attempts to obtain information about the breath-test machine in other courts were unsuccessful and the former congressman “decided that what made sense for him was to accept responsibility for his actions.”

The death on Thursday of 22-year-old Nick Adenhart, who was killed when the car he was driving in was broadsided by a suspected drunken driver, partially led to Fossella’s surprise decision, Pollack said.

“It certainly highlighted again for Mr. Fossella and I think for the public the dangers of drinking and driving,” Pollack said.

“With that in the news, Mr. Fossella thought it particuarly appropriate for him to acknowledge his own wrongdoing and not to fight over the issue of the accuracy of the reading in this particular case. The fact of the matter is, he had something to drink.”

Fossella, 43, entered the plea in Alexandria Circuit Court. He has four days remaining on the five-day sentence issued in December and will serve them beginning this Friday over two weekends in Alexandria. He was given credit for the day he served when he was arrested.

Fossella, who had served in Congress since 1997, was pulled over after running a red light on May 1, and convicted of drunken driving in October. He appealed his conviction, which automatically entitled him to a jury trial under Virginia law.

Fossella told police at the time of his arrest that he was on his way to visit a daughter he had in the area, raising questions about who his daughter was. He later acknowledged he had fathered a child through an affair with a former Air Force officer. The congressman has a wife and three children in his home district.

Fossella was the only Republican member of the New York City congressional delegation before he stepped down. Democrat Michael McMahon won Fossella’s congressional seat last November.

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