DUI charges reinstated against state rep.

State Rep. Cherelle Parker was charged with drunken driving.
State Rep. Cherelle Parker was charged with drunken driving.
Posted: January 17, 2012

A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court judge reinstated drunken-driving charges Tuesday against state Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, ruling that the lower-court judge who dismissed charges should have recused himself because he was a Facebook friend of the legislator.

Judge Paula Patrick ruled that Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden "abused his discretion" Nov. 1 when he threw out the evidence against Parker.

Patrick said the appearance of impropriety raised by the Facebook friendship between Parker and Hayden made it "improper for him not to have recused himself."

Patrick's decision followed a 30-minute hearing on an appeal by the state Attorney General's Office, which is prosecuting the case because District Attorney Seth Williams recused himself.

Williams and Parker are friends - in person and online.

Patrick's ruling means Parker, 39, a Democrat who represents Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough, and Andorra, will face trial Feb. 7 before a new Municipal Court judge.

Parker declined to comment afterward, but attorney Joseph Kelly said he would file an interlocutory appeal - a pretrial petition - to Superior Court asking the state's midlevel appeals court to block retrial.

"It's a shame they put Judge Hayden on trial in front of the media," Kelly said.

Hayden was not part of Tuesday's hearing. But in his Nov. 21 opinion justifying his ruling in Parker's case, Hayden wrote that the state prosecutor wanted "judges making decisions on recusal based solely upon public opinion and the media rather than the facts, evidence, and the law."

Hayden wrote, "It is absurd to imagine the unintended consequences of adopting the Commonwealth's position on Facebook where the sole test for recusal is ultimately 'Facebook friendship.'

"The Facebook-friend issue alone is not sufficient to warrant recusal," Hayden added.

Senior Deputy Attorney General John J. Flannery Jr. said the charges against Parker should never have been dismissed: "What I'm happy about is that 'John Rowhouse' will be getting the same treatment as some elected politician."

Hayden tossed the evidence against Parker, saying he did not feel the arresting officers were credible in explaining why they stopped the seven-year legislator.

Parker was pulled over on the night of April 30 by Officers Israel Miranda Jr. and Stephanie Allen after they said they spotted her driving the wrong way on Haines Street in Germantown.

The officers said she smelled of alcohol, her eyes were glassy, she had trouble getting out of her state-owned Jeep Cherokee, and she had no license, registration, or insurance card.

A Breathalyzer test determined that Parker's blood-alcohol level was 0.16 percent - twice the legal threshold for driving under the influence. The results never became evidence because Hayden found insufficient probable cause for the stop.

At the November hearing, Parker testified that she was never on Haines Street and denied telling the officers she had had two beers and a couple of martinis at Club Champagne in Germantown.

Kelly argued that Hayden's ruling should stand because his appraisal of the officers' credibility was discretionary. Kelly called the Facebook friendship between Parker and Hayden purely electronic, not personal.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com,

or @joeslobo on Twitter.

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