Rep. Parker found guilty of DUI

Posted: January 17, 2013

State Rep. Cherelle L. Parker, leader of the city's House delegation in Harrisburg, was found guilty of drunken driving Wednesday for a 2011 incident in which her blood-alcohol level tested at twice Pennsylvania's legal threshold of intoxication.

After a brief trial without witnesses in the Criminal Justice Center, the former president judge of Montgomery County Court, S. Gerald Corso, ruled Parker guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, based on police arrest records, Breathalyzer results, and related documents.

Her mandatory sentence - three days in jail, a one-year license suspension, and $1,000 fine, among other penalties - was stayed pending an appeal to Superior Court.

"If this was a baseball game, I'd say we were in the third or fourth inning," said Parker's attorney, Joseph Kelly. He said her appeal would be based on objections to the traffic stop that led to her arrest, on the legal maneuvering that overturned her initial acquittal by a Municipal Court judge, and on a recent Dauphin County Court ruling that found some Breathalyzer tests to be unreliable.

Parker, 40, a Democrat elected head of the city's House delegation by her Philadelphia colleagues, did not appear shaken or surprised by Corso's ruling.

She huddled briefly outside the courtroom with her attorney and 15 friends and relatives who attended the proceeding. Then she left the building without talking to reporters. Later, her office referred all calls to her attorney.

Parker was stopped by police officers the night of April 30, accused of driving the wrong way on Haines Street in Germantown.

The officers described her as having alcohol on her breath and glassy, bloodshot eyes. She had trouble getting out of her state-owned Jeep Cherokee and had no license, registration, or insurance card, the officers reported.

A subsequent Breathalyzer test at Police Headquarters measured her blood-alcohol level at 0.16 percent, twice the 0.08 level that makes Pennsylvania residents subject to criminal prosecution.

Kelly attempted to have the test results excluded from evidence Wednesday, citing a recent opinion by a Dauphin County judge that questioned the accuracy of Breathalyzer results above 0.15 percent. Corso denied the motion.

In November 2011, Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden dismissed the charges against Parker, ruling that the police officers lacked credibility. The state Attorney General's Office took over the case when District Attorney Seth Williams recused his office, citing his friendship with Parker. The Attorney General's Office had requested that the case be assigned to Corso.

John J. Flannery Jr., a senior deputy attorney general, got the case reinstated by Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick, who ruled that Hayden should have recused himself because he and Parker were friends on Facebook.

Flannery said Wednesday that he was pleased with Corso's decision, but added that the Superior Court appeal could stretch out the case a couple more years.

"I think she was extremely guilty . . .," he told reporters, "as guilty as you could possibly be."


Contact Bob Warner

at 215-854-5885 or warnerb@phillynews.com.

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