Fossella convicted of drunken driving

(AP) - Rep. Vito Fossella was convicted Friday of drunken driving in suburban Virginia, another blow from a late-night traffic stop that exposed secrets of

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - (AP) - Rep. Vito Fossella was convicted Friday of drunken driving in suburban Virginia, another blow from a late-night traffic stop that exposed secrets of his personal life and wrecked his career.

After a daylong trial at Alexandria General District Court, Judge Becky Moore found Fossella guilty of driving under the influence when he was pulled over for running a red light shortlyafter midnight on May 1. The arrest led to revelations that he hadfathered a child from an extramarital affair, and he decided not toseek re-election. Fossella, New York City's only Republicancongressman, was first elected to the House in 1997.

The judge said she would hold a hearing Dec. 8 to determine ifprosecutors had met the legal threshold for high blood alcoholcontent, which would mean a mandatory five-day jail sentence.

Crying friends hugged Fossella in the courtroom after theverdict.

"Don't worry. It'll be OK," he told them.

The congressman declined to speak to reporters as he left thecourthouse.

Fossella's day in court featured hours of dry, technicaltestimony, but also talk about a White House party, an Intoxilyzer5000 breath-test machine and the congressman's bowels.

The afternoon before his arrest, Fossella had been at the WhiteHouse celebrating the New York Giants' Super Bowl victory, butwitnesses insisted no alcohol was served or consumed there.

Later, he went to dinner with friends where he had "no morethan a glass and a half" of wine, he testified, plus a few moresips later at a tavern.

Police officer Jamie Gernatt said he stopped Fossella's car thatnight for running a red light, and the driver, Fossella, appearedto be drunk.

"There was a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from thecar and his lips were stained red," Gernatt testified. The policeofficer said Fossella told him he'd had two or three glasses ofwine, but had bloodshot eyes and made mistakes in sobriety tests.

Police say his blood-alcohol content level was 0.17 percent,more than twice the legal limit, and under state law anyoneconvicted of having a BAC above 0.15 must serve a mandatoryfive-day jail term.

In announcing her verdict, the judge said she would heararguments on that issue later.

Through the day's evidence, Fossella listened glumly butintently to the evidence. At one point, he looked incredulous asGernatt described one of their conversations on the night of thearrest, but otherwise he showed little reaction.

Another officer, Richard Sandoval, described strange behavior byFossella when he was brought to a police station to submit to abreath test by the Intoxilyzer 5000.

At one point, according to Sandoval, Fossella asked to go to thebathroom and was told he couldn't. At that point, the congressmansaid he would have to defecate in the room.

Sandoval said he told Fossella they were "guests" at thepolice station, and "he wasn't going to defecate" in it.

On the witness stand, the congressman denied the story, sayingthat the officer had yelled at him and mocked him at times duringthe breath testing.

Defense lawyer Jerry Phillips challenged the types of fieldsobriety tests given to Fossella and spent hours trying to provethe Intoxilyzer 5000 machine gave bad readings due to interferencefrom police radios and because Fossella used a hand sanitizer.

The judge rejected a defense claim the first officer had nogrounds to arrest Fossella.

Police said the married 43-year-old told them when he was pulledover that he was headed to see his sick daughter. Given that hiswife and children live in New York, that statement set off alarmsand eventually led to the revelation he had secretly fathered adaughter, now 3 years old, with a Virginia woman, Laura Fay, aformer Air Force officer and congressional liaison.

After admitting the relationship, Fossella announced he wouldnot seek re-election, a drastic fall for a politician once viewedas a potential mayor of New York City. His downfall has alsocreated an opportunity for Democrats to gain a seat in Congress inNovember.

Fossella's troubles have only further hurt his state party'selection chances next month. If a Democrat wins Fossella's seat, itwill mark the first time in 35 years that all of New York City hasbeen represented by Democrats.

Rep.Vito Fossella won't seek re-electionSources:No re-election for Rep. Fossella after scandalFossellaadmits affair, having out-of-wedlock childFossellaapologizes for DWI arrestBrooklyncongressman charged with DWI

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