- Associated Press - Monday, December 1, 2014

INDIANA, Pa. (AP) - A district judge on suspension with pay has entered a first-offender’s program on charges she left the scene of an accident and obstructed justice after sideswiping an oncoming vehicle.

Blairsville District Judge Jennifer Rega, 41, was sentenced to a year’s probation after being accepted into the program Monday by an Indiana County judge, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (https://bit.ly/1rMG44S) reported. The newspaper said Rega and her defense attorney, Robert Muir, declined comment after the court appearance.

Under the program, Rega didn’t plead guilty and can ask a judge to expunge her arrest record if she completes the probation without incident.

State police said in a criminal complaint that Rega’s SUV crossed the center line just after midnight and knocked the mirror off an oncoming car on Sept. 13. The people in the car followed Rega and told police she slurred her speech and seemed drunk when they stopped and tried to speak with her. They said she drove away before police arrived.

Muir previously told The Associated Press he doesn’t believe the judge obstructed justice by not stopping at the scene or later reporting the accident to police. The obstruction charge, a second-degree misdemeanor, was the most serious charge Rega faced and carried a maximum two-year prison sentence had she fought the charge and been convicted at trial.

Rega was not charged with drunken driving. Police weren’t able to examine her vehicle until two days later, and the occupants of the other vehicle didn’t pick Rega out of a photo lineup until Sept. 29 to identify her as the driver.

Muir, who didn’t immediately return calls for comment from the AP on Monday, has acknowledged Rega made other “mistakes” by not stopping after sideswiping the vehicle. He disputed the witness accounts in the criminal complaint that his client smelled of alcohol and appeared disoriented.

Indiana County Judge William Martin announced Sept. 17 that Rega would be on paid leave while the criminal investigation continued. Judge Martin didn’t immediately return a call for comment about whether and when Rega’s suspension could be lifted.

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