UPDATE: Watson Not Charged With DUI
Police will not charge Rep. Robert Watson with drunken driving although reports said police found open beers in Watson's car on Jan. 21 when he was arrested for possession of marijuana.
South Kingstown Police announced today that Rep. Robert Watson (R-Dist. 30) would not face additional charges of drunken-driving stemming from his Jan 21 arrest for possession of marijuana.
According to reports, a plow truck operator observed Watson driving erratically and notified police. By the time police arrived on scene, Watson was not in his car, but police allegedly found three open cans of Natural Ice beer and smelled alcohol on Watson. A field sobriety test was not conducted.
A press release by the department said police made the decision after consulting the town solicitor and state Office of the Attorney General.
"The department considered pursuing additional charges of driving under the influence; however, the evidence presented significant legal issues that would have made a successful prosecution unlikely," said Chief Vincent Vespia in the release.
Watson, former House Minority Leader, is awaiting trial on in Connecticut on similar charges.
While the report stated that Watson "appeared highly intoxicated" and was slurring his words, he was not charged with driving under the influence because of a variety of complicating factors, according to South Kingstown Police Capt. Jeffrey Allen.
In particular, the police did not "have" Watson behind the wheel.
When the first officer — Patrolman Joseph Macrae — arrived on the scene at 11:54 p.m. Saturday at Washington County Veterinary Hospital on 4263 Tower Hill Road, Watson was standing outside of the vehicle. The car appeared to be stuck in a snow bank and the front driver's side tire was missing from the rim. Watson said he had no idea what he hit to cause the tire damage, or when.
Police had been tipped off by plow operator John Timpson, who had been clearing the Washington County Vets parking lot when, he told police, Watson nearly hit him. Timpson was not there at the time of the arrest.
After a second officer arrived — Patrolman Trevor Richmond — Macrae had Watson sit in his own car while Macrae explained the situation to Richmond. When they returned to talk to Watson, he was reportedly holding an open Natural Ice beer can. According to the report, Watson handed it over "relunctantly."
After Watson got out of the car, he said, "Do you know who I am? I'm the E.G. rep."
It was only after Watson was out of his car that police saw a pipe commonly used to smoke marijuana.
This time, while they were searching Watson's car, the officers had Watson sit in the back of a patrol car.
During the search, they allegedly found the baggie of marijuana in a pocket of the driver's seat and two Corona Extra beer bottles.
Police did not administer a field sobriety test, nor was he asked to take a breathalyzer test at the station. According to Allen, the officers chose not to charge him with driving under the influence since they had not seen him driving.
"Procedurally, it could have posed a problem," Allen said Monday. "DUI's are very technical in nature. Should he have put [Watson] back in his personal vehicle? These are judgment calls."
Allen continued: "He made a judgment call at the time. They went with the marijuana charge."
He added that Watson "wasn't a very nice person to the officers. He was belligerent and uncooperative at the station."
Watson's behavior did not rise to the level of any additional charge. Allen said such behavior is not untypical "on third shift" — in the middle of the night.
The South Kingstown Police are reviewing the arrest internally, Allen said, to see if the proper procedures were followed.
According to Ptlm. Richmond's report, he found the tire from Watson's car at the intersection of Tower Hill and Saugatucket roads, a short distance from Washington County Vets.
Watson was convicted on drunken driving in New Hampshire in 2000. After his East Haven arrest last year, he was ousted as minority leader after police charged him with possession of marijuana, driving under the influence and possession of drug paraphernalia.