- Honesdale Borough Councilman James (Jim) Brennan, 69 of Honesdale, was sentenced Thursday morning at the Wayne County Courthouse for a DUI.
During a trial on Jan. 25, Brennan was found guilty for a DUI, a first degree misdemeanor, from an incident that occurred on April 13, 2012. Judge Raymond Hamill also found him guilty of speeding.
Brennan was pulled over for speeding and suspicion of DUI by Trooper Saprona at the Aaron's parking lot on Grandview Avenue.
In his testimony Saprona said he pulled out behind a vehicle that "sped up rapidly." He tracked the vehicle for about a mile before clocking Brennan doing 45.7 mph in a 25 mph zone.
"His turn signals were going on and off, switching from right to left twice before shutting off," Saprona said. "He crossed the yellow line and was flashing his high beams, cycling about 3-4 times. It was then I initiated a traffic stop."
In his testimony Brennan said he went to pick up his dog around 10 p.m. April 12 after getting back from a three day seminar.
"I had two glasses of beer," Brennan said. "I then gave some souvenirs to the owner and got my dog then headed home."
He said there was no dog food in the house so he went to get some around 12:30 a.m. April 13 and that his dog came with him.
"The officers both said he was staggering and leaning on the car to support his balance, yet he was able to get his 115 pound German Shepard to the cop car," said Brennan's attorney Chris Farrell. "The dog was also rambunctious and possibly angry. How does that add up?"
Farrell also said that there's "no scientific evidence" for the case.
The jury deliberated for one hour and 45 minutes before reaching their verdict.
At the sentencing Thursday, assistant district attorney Pat Robinson, representing the Commonwealth, said the Honesdale Police Department did a very "professional job" in the manner.
"We won't disagree that this was handled in a professional manner," said Farrell. "We accept the jury's verdict and have no intention of challenging or appealing it. Right after the trial Jim told me he accepts their decision."
Farrell went on to list what Brennan has been involved with in the community, including being a member of the Army.
"Even before the trial he had a drug and alcohol evaluation done and he did that on his own," said Farrell. "He's been clean and sober since September 2012, finished the alcohol highway safety program and started his outpatient alcohol treatment in November 2012, which he completed in February."
He also said Brennan attends AA meetings 2-3 times a week. He said that they would "appreciate any type of home confinement."
Page 2 of 2 - "Since I quit drinking in September I haven't experienced withdrawal," said Brennan. "I haven't been in an accident before. If I were driving and alcohol were the cause of an accident I'd have a hard time morally satisfying my conscience from harming another individual. I never want to be responsible for driving with an impaired ability."
Hamill said that Borough Council President F.J. Monaghan submitted a letter to the court in which he "spoke favorably" about Brennan.
He listed Brennan's prior offenses including a DUI in 2002 where he got an ARD, a summary offense in 2008 and 2010, a misdemeanor 3 for serving liquor to minors and a misdemeanor 3 of public drunkenness.
Hamill also mentioned that on Brennan's insurance there is a 1990 DUI with a vehicle but said the court "couldn't find" a record of it, so he asked Brennan to explain. Brennan said he "didn't know" what that was for and that if he knew, "he would say."
"You can't drink period!" Hamill said. "You have to tell yourself that you'll never, never drink again. If you start imagining that something like an accident could happen, you aren't going to deal with your demon. Until you realize alcohol is destroying yourself you won't move past it. You have to stop pretending you can manage it. This is an illness that has to be dealt with the rest of your life or else."
Hamill added that he still wants Brennan to be able to contribute to the community.
"You're a mighty contributor to the community," he said. "Sadly, not all care for the betterment of the community."
Brennan was given a misdemeanor count 1 for DUI and had a total sentence of five years, which includes 45 days at the Wayne County Correctional Facility, 45 days house arrest, which he will pay for and the rest on probation.
His sentence also included paying the cost of prosecution, monthly screenings, random drug and alcohol testing, refraining from the use of drugs and alcohol, a $2,000 fine, 100 hours of community service within six months and a $65 fine for excessive speeding past the maximum speed.
When asked how the outcome would affect Brennan's council seat, Monahan said, "The Borough code says that if a member of the council commits a felony then the judge makes a decision to take them off the board. It is my belief that he will continue to serve on the council."