Former Clinton Aide Violated Probation
Thursday, October 6, 2005
Two days after he was sentenced for smuggling classified documents from the National Archives, former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger violated his probation when he was ticketed for reckless driving in Fairfax County, according to court officials and records.
Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson admonished Berger yesterday for the traffic charge during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia but left him on probation as recommended by the federal probation office, according to court records.
Berger was clocked going 88 mph in a 55-mph zone while driving eastbound on Interstate 66 in Fairfax on Sept. 10, according to court records. Berger told court officers that "he was speeding because he was late to a meeting, and he was not aware of how fast he was traveling," according to a probation violation report filed in federal court.
The former Clinton administration official is scheduled to appear in Fairfax traffic court on Oct. 18. Berger's attorney, Lanny A. Breuer, could not be reached to comment.
The charge comes as some judges in Fairfax have begun cracking down on excessive speeding and other reckless driving violations, sentencing violators to jail time in some cases, defense lawyers said.
Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia; it carries a penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine, although those limits are rarely approached, experts said. At the very least, Berger is likely to be fined and to have his driver's license suspended for several months if he is found guilty, according to traffic lawyers not connected to Berger's case.
"Going 88 on 66 by the Beltway is pretty fast, even by Northern Virginia standards," said Fairfax defense lawyer Mark J. Yeager.
On Sept. 8, Berger was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine and surrender his security clearance for three years after pleading guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. He paid the fine Sept. 9, court records show.
Berger, who served as national security adviser to President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, admitted to stuffing copies of documents in his coat jacket as he left the National Archives in 2003 while preparing for questions from the Sept. 11 commission. He also admitted destroying some of the records at his office and lying about possessing them.
Officials with the Sept. 11 commission and the Archives have said that nothing was lost because the documents were logged and there were copies of all of them.
"My actions . . . were wrong," Berger told the court last month. "They were foolish. I deeply regret them and I have every day since."
Berger stepped down as an adviser to the presidential campaign of Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) after the investigation was disclosed last year.