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Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007
By Shelley Grieshop
Former state representative convicted of drunk driving
WAPAKONETA - Minster native and former Ohio House representative Derrick Seaver was preached to by a local judge Tuesday before receiving a court sentence for drunk driving.
Flanked by his attorney in the small courtroom of Auglaize County Municipal Court, 25-year-old Seaver offered a plea of no contest to operating a motor vehicle under the influence - a charge stemming from an early morning traffic stop along Interstate 75 on March 25.
A charge of failure to drive within the lanes of travel was dismissed by the prosecution. Seaver's erratic driving was captured on video from the trooper's cruiser. The images, shown at a previous hearing, revealed the car weaving at times in and out of his lane of travel.
Municipal court Judge Gary W. Herman ordered Seaver to serve 20 days in jail, then suspended the entire jail term. He also ordered the former representative of Ohio's 78th District to pay a $750 fine but immediately suspended $500 of it. Seaver also was ordered to attend a 72-hour driver intervention program by Dec. 1.
First-time DUI offenders in Ohio, like Seaver, face a minimum of three days in jail, $200-$1,000 fine and a 6-month to one-year court-ordered license suspension - all subject to a judge's discretion.
A good portion of Herman's lecture Tuesday dealt with the refusal by Seaver to take a Breathalyzer test immediately following his arrest by a state highway patrol trooper at 4:20 a.m. Seaver claimed a legal adviser told him to refuse the test.
"You shouldn't have to call a lawyer to find out what to do," Herman told Seaver.
The refusal led to an on-the-spot operator's license suspension. Later, Seaver was ordered to drive with DUI designated yellow license plates.
Seaver's attorney, Rob Wiesenmayer, on Tuesday asked the judge not to hold the test refusal against his client. Wiesenmayer asked Herman to issue a lesser six-month operator's license suspension instead of a year-long suspension.
"He's been in no trouble before ... I believe this is a mistake, something that's not going to be repeated," Wiesenmayer said in Seaver's defense.
The Wapakoneta attorney asked the judge to consider that Seaver has taken "many positive steps in his life" including serving in Ohio's Legislature. Seaver, who refrained from a statement in court on his own behalf - recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and is pursuing a master's degree in international comparative politics, Wiesenmayer said.
Herman ordered Seaver to the lesser six-month operator's license suspension, which will be completed Sept. 25 because it is retroactive to his initial suspension in March following his arrest. But Herman wasted no time lecturing Seaver before issuing the full sentence.
"I will say I was very distressed to see those charges get filed," Herman told Seaver, adding he was going to "treat your case like any other."
Herman reminded Seaver that he once was a part of the legislators who drafted the DUI laws. Herman also spoke about public figures being held to a higher standard, recalling the plight of a politician who was removed from public office for a first-time OVI offense.
Herman also spoke about "momma's law." He said his mother always believed that people who refused alcohol tests were just hiding their guilt and should be prosecuted accordingly.
Herman told Seaver - who is the youngest person ever to serve three terms at the state capitol - to follow all terms of the sentencing or face jail time and added conditions. He asked Seaver to make changes in his life "to make sure this never happens again."
Seaver's attorney in late March contested the evidence in the case including the accuracy of a field sobriety test. But Herman ruled to allow it. A jury trial set to commence Monday was vacated when Seaver negotiated a plea with the prosecutor's office last month.
Immediately prior to the hearing Tuesday, Seaver told The Daily Standard he wanted to apologize to his family and friends, and the people he formerly represented in the district, for his actions. Dressed neatly in a suit and tie, he appeared at ease despite several news media representatives hovering about, waiting for the hearing to begin.
"I think it's a good thing that it's (the case) being covered like this," he said, adding the news coverage will ensure he is treated in court like anyone else facing a DUI charge.
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