Former national security adviser Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger pleaded guilty yesterday in Fairfax County to reckless driving after he was clocked going 88 mph on Interstate 66.
Berger's attorney did not know what impact the guilty plea might have on his client's probation for smuggling classified documents from the National Archives. His attorney in the documents case declined to comment.
Berger, 60, was pulled over for speeding on I-66 on Sept. 10, two days after he pleaded guilty to unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents in the District. Berger acknowledged removing copies of documents in 2003 from his days as national security adviser to President Bill Clinton and was placed on two years' probation. He also had his security clearance revoked for three years and paid a $50,000 fine.
Berger was driving a 1990 Lexus sedan when a Fairfax police officer pulled him over on eastbound I-66 near Fairfax County Parkway, according to court records. The speed limit there is 55 mph, and the officer cited Berger for reckless driving.
Berger waited in the courthouse cafeteria yesterday while his attorney, former Fairfax assistant prosecutor Todd F. Sanders, monitored the traffic court proceedings and worked out a plea agreement.
Retired General District Court Judge Richard T. Horan, working as a substitute judge, presided over the traffic docket. Berger took a seat in the courtroom shortly before his case was called, then strode to the podium with Sanders when his case was called.
He was not required to speak and did not. Sanders presented results from a calibration of Berger's speedometer, showing that it was off by three miles per hour. Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell agreed to reduce Berger's speed from 88 to 85 mph, in exchange for a guilty plea to reckless driving.
Horan accepted the plea and fined Berger $250. An additional $67 in court costs was also imposed. Berger turned and walked out of the courtroom, then headed quickly out of the building, declining to speak to reporters.
"This was a routine case that was handled in a routine fashion," Sanders said. He would not say where Berger had been that Saturday afternoon or where he was heading. Berger had told court officers he was late for a meeting, according to federal court documents.
Sanders said he did not know what impact the plea could have on Berger's federal probation, "but I would hope none. It's really not a crime where someone is intentionally doing something wrong or bad."
Lanny A. Breuer, Berger's attorney in the documents case, declined to comment on whether the driving charge would affect Berger's probation. "We'll continue to cooperate with probation [officers] and the court," Breuer said, "and we'll do whatever they request."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson was made aware of the traffic ticket and summoned Berger into court last month, after Berger's probation officer filed a violation report. The judge admonished Berger but left him on probation. Breuer said he could not comment on whether Berger's guilty plea would result in another hearing before the judge.