Maryland Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. was given a 30-day jail sentence Tuesday for a drunken boating charge related to a collision in August that left seven people injured, including a 5-year-old girl who suffered skull fractures.
It could be several months, however, before a final decision on whether Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel) has to serve time. Anne Arundel County District Court Judge Robert C. Wilcox said the sentence would be stayed if Dwyer appealed, which his lawyer promptly did. An appeal sends the case to circuit court.
Dwyer, 55, pleaded guilty Tuesday to operating a boat under the influence of alcohol, told the court he was “very remorseful” for what had happened and said he is continuing to seek help for a drinking problem that stemmed in part from marital issues.
Wilcox said that Dwyer was “perhaps an exemplary citizen” in other ways, but that the three-term delegate’s decision to operate a boat after drinking heavily was “a tragedy in the making.”
“Those who make the laws have an obligation to obey them,” Wilcox said. “You are held to a higher standard.”
Under a plea deal, prosecutors had recommended a lighter sentence that included no additional incarceration. 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 Tuesday as part of the plea deal.
Dwyer’s lawyer, David Fischer, insisted that Dwyer was not at fault in the accident, a factor Wilcox dismissed as “irrelevant” in his sentencing decision.
Before sentencing, Wilcox heard from a 12-year-old boy who was hurt and the mother of a two other children who also suffered injuries in the collision.
Nicholas Everett, 12, said his physical injuries had largely healed but that he was “still very terrified” to go boating. He called Dwyer’s decision to operate a boat “irresponsible.”
Anastasia Moore, the mother of two children in the other boat, said Taylor, 5, and Dylan, 7, suffered emotionally as well as physically. “To put it simply, they just haven’t been able to carry on their normal lives as a result of Mr. Dwyer’s reckless and dangerous conduct.”
Moore displayed blown-up photo of her children in the hospital. Her son, whose arm was broken, was depicted in a neck brace was multiple abrasions on his face.
Her daughter, who suffered multiple skull fractures, has had a difficult recovery, involving several medical specialists, Moore said.
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) said Tuesday that he expects a legislative ethics committee will examine the episode. That panel could recommend disciplinary actions ranging up to expulsion to the full House of Delegates.