Md. lobbyist with drunken-driving convictions freed

By Maria Glod and Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Maryland lobbyist with seven drunken-driving convictions who has represented the Prince George's County Council and Sheriff's Department was ordered released Wednesday after 36 days in jail.

David A. Jacobs, 53, of Mitchellville, who was drunk April 29 when he lost control of his Honda Pilot and struck another car and a guardrail, was sent to an in-patient alcohol treatment program for 28 days. A prosecutor had asked the court to sentence Jacobs to 10 months in jail.

Prince George's District Court Judge Hassan Ali El-Amin told Jacobs, who lobbied for the county in Annapolis in the last legislative session, that he cannot drink or drive during the duration of his sentence, which includes three years of supervised probation. El-Amin recommended Jacobs hire a chauffeur.

"If you get behind the wheel after what I've told you, you can bring everyone down here. You can try to resurrect Johnnie Cochran and bring him down here. It does not matter; you are going to jail," El-Amin said. "When they pour the drinks down in Annapolis, you'll tell them, 'I'll have a Perrier.' "

The Prince George's County state's attorney's office expressed disappointment with the sentence.

"Repeated drunk-driving offenses pose a grave danger not only to Mr. Jacobs himself but to all motorists and bystanders in Prince George's County and throughout the region. It is unfortunate that this defendant, a seven-time offender, was given a slap-on-the-wrist sentence," department spokesman Ramón V. Korionoff said.

Jacobs, who appeared in court in an orange jail jumpsuit, has represented the council, sheriff's office, the Town of Colmar Manor and a developer, among others. He is married to county Board of Education Chairman Verjeana M. Jacobs (At Large).

"This has been a real wake-up," Jacobs told El-Amin. "I acknowledge clearly that there is a problem there. . . . I'm saying it loudly. I'm saying it clearly. I'm saying it publicly."

Asked whether Jacobs would be representing the County Council next year, spokeswoman Karen Campbell did not rule out the possibility, saying hiring decisions have not been finalized.

Jacobs has amassed seven drunken-driving convictions since the 1990s, according to prosecutors. Last month, he pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in connection with the April accident. His blood-alcohol level was 0.17, more than twice the legal limit.

Assistant State's Attorney Sherrie Waldrup, who called Jacobs a "habitual drunk driver," asked El-Amin to impose more jail time. Defense attorney Thomas Mooney said Jacobs, whom he called "well-liked and affable," has volunteered with the American Red Cross, YMCA and other groups.

Caroline Cash, executive director of MADD Maryland, said the court should be tough on repeat offenders.

"Our point of view is: How is it that there's any such thing as seven offenses? How are we allowing that?" Cash said. "For someone like this, he needs serious jail and serious treatment, and 30 days of each is neither of those."

Cash said her group is lobbying Maryland lawmakers to mandate now-optional ignition interlock restrictions for DUI convictions. Motor Vehicle Administration records indicate that Jacobs was subject to the interlock restriction at one time but had it removed in December 2007.

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