Md. delegate enters guilty plea for drunken boating, awaits sentence in October


Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. during a Judiciary Committee hearing in 2011 in Annapolis. (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)
August 6, 2013

In a renewed bid to avoid jail time, Maryland Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to a drunken boating charge stemming from a collision last year that injured seven people.

It will be up to a visiting judge, however, to decide in October whether to accept the plea deal that Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel) reached with prosecutors, which calls for no additional incarceration.

Dwyer had struck the same deal in District Court in May, but the judge in the case imposed a 30-day jail sentence, saying that as a lawmaker, Dwyer should be held to a higher standard for drinking excessively before the crash. Dwyer promptly appealed.

On Tuesday, retired Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr., who has been brought in from Harford County to handle the case, said that records from alcohol treatment programs in which Dwyer enrolled after the crash will be key to his decision about a sentence.

“I want to see evaluations from those programs,” Plitt said.

He indicated that he would also hear from victims on Oct. 25. Among those injured were a 5-year-old girl who suffered a fractured skull.

Dwyer, 55, left the courtroom Tuesday without speaking to reporters. David Fischer, one of Dwyer’s lawyers, declined to comment.

Claude de Vastey-Jones, an assistant state’s attorney from Howard County specially assigned to the case, said prosecutors agreed to the same deal in Circuit Court as they had in District Court.

Dwyer previously spent two days under lockdown in an alcohol treatment program.

At the time of the accident on the Magothy River, the delegate’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit, according to the charges brought in the case. Prosecutors said Dwyer admitted to having had at least eight beers that day.

Four other lesser charges against Dwyer were dropped as part of the original plea deal, leaving the sole charge of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol.

In May, Dwyer told the court that he was “very remorseful” for what had happened and said he was continuing to seek help for a drinking problem that stemmed in part from marital issues.

Because all of the charges filed against Dwyer were misdemeanors and none were directly related to his job as a state legislator, he has not been under threat of automatic expulsion from the General Assembly.

But House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) has said that he expects that a legislative ethics committee will examine the episode. That panel could recommend disciplinary actions ranging up to expulsion to the full House of Delegates.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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