Bowers pleads guilty to DUI count

June 11, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

Former Washington County Commissioner Ronald Lee Bowers on Tuesday admitted he is an alcoholic and pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence of alcohol, but he can maintain a clean driving record if he complies with the terms of his probation.

Washington County Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley sentenced Bowers, 59, of 13933 Distant View Drive to 30 months probation. For the first nine months, Bowers will be monitored through a Department of Parole and Probation drunken driving program. Bowers also was ordered to pay $225 in court fees and $250 in fines.

Beachley granted Bowers probation before judgment, which means Bowers' driving record will not be penalized if he complies with the terms of his probation.


Bowers must complete mandatory counseling and courses to include attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting. Other traffic charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Bowers is the administrator of the Maryland Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board. He makes $73,700 a year, according to state budget information.

On Jan. 6 at about 10:30 p.m., Washington County Sheriff's deputies found Bowers walking from an accident on Village Mill Drive. Deputies found a state vehicle in a stream, Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Arthur Rozes said at the hearing Tuesday.

Police said Bowers failed several sobriety tests and registered a .19 blood alcohol content, Rozes said. In Maryland, a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol content is considered to be driving under the influence.

Before sentencing, Beachley asked Bowers if he accepted that he had a problem with alcohol.

"I've admitted, and I've admitted in meetings, I am an alcoholic," Bowers said.

Bowers and his lawyer, Bruce Poole, told Beachley that Bowers had been undergoing treatment for several months, including attending Alcoholics Anonymous sessions, a Washington County Health Department program and private psychologist sessions.

Bowers said that during his time in public office he worried about his public image.

"I never wanted to see anything in print that would hurt my appearance," he told Beachley. He called his arrest "the most humiliating experience that I've gone through."

Poole said that on the night Bowers was charged, "He had too much to drink. Way too much to drink."

Poole produced a document that showed Bowers contacted the Health Department the day after his arrest.

"He simply said, 'Bruce, I made a mistake. I want to do everything I can to correct it,'" Poole said.

In the accident, the state's 1999 Chevrolet Blazer driven by Bowers hit a mailbox. Bowers paid to repair the mailbox and $700 to fix the Blazer, Poole said.

Bowers was charged with driving under the influence in Franklin County, Pa., after he allegedly ran a stop sign and nearly struck a car on Aug. 18, 2002. His charges there could be erased if he complies with Pennsylvania court action from January.

Beachley told lawyers that when in private practice he had represented an opposing interest to Bowers, but Bowers did not object to his handling the case.

Circuit Judge John H. McDowell had been assigned the case, but recused himself because he previously represented Bowers, Beachley said.

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