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Senator charged with DUI

August 23, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

Police charged state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, with first-offense driving under the influence and DUI over .10 after police allege he failed four field sobriety tests and registered a .267 on a breath test Thursday.

The legal blood-alcohol limit in West Virginia is .10.

"I take 100 percent responsibility for what I did," Snyder, 49, said Friday afternoon from his Shenandoah Junction home. "I apologize first to my family and secondly to all the people that I represent. I'm human and I made a mistake."

Asked if he plans to seek help for what he admitted to be a drinking problem, Snyder responded, "All I can say is the earliest I can go to East Ridge is 10 a.m. Tuesday." Attending East Ridge's six-week alcohol abuse treatment program will be Snyder's first attempt at seeking professional help for the problem, he said.

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Although he emphasized they are not excuses, Snyder said he has had a lot on his mind. About a year ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and since has been to three hospitals, including Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, he said.

Plus, as a businessman who owns three corporations, Snyder said he has been troubled by the economy.

Despite concerns from one of his sons, who plans to run for a House of Delegates seat next year, Snyder said his family is supporting him.

The mistake will be his last, he said.

"I can assure everyone that reads your paper that this will never happen again," he said.

Jefferson County Sheriff's Department Deputy William Parker pulled over Snyder at around 9:40 p.m. Thursday as Snyder left the Jefferson County Fair, said Sheriff Ed Boober.

Snyder took the Intoxilyzer test just before 11 p.m., records show.

The incident began when "a fair official and other citizens that were concerned for his (Snyder's) welfare" told Parker that Snyder appeared to be drunk, Boober said.

Although Parker got into his police car and drove around the fair's parking lot trying to find Snyder before he got into a car, he was not successful.

After Snyder drove past the deputy in a black Lincoln Continental, Parker turned around and stopped the car just before it got onto Leetown Pike, records show.

Snyder was alone in the car, Boober said.

"The defendant got out of the driver's seat. He appeared unsteady on his feet," Parker wrote in a four-page handwritten criminal complaint filed in magistrate court. "As he walked back to my patrol car, he staggered, needing his arms for balance."

According to Parker, Snyder's face was red, his eyes were bloodshot and his breath smelled like alcohol.

In the complaint, Parker detailed the field sobriety tests he administered and the results.

For one of the tests, Snyder was told to raise one of his feet 6 inches off the ground and 6 inches in front of him, keep his arms to his sides and count from 1,001 to 1,030, records show.

Snyder tried the test three times and could not count past 1,003 without putting his foot down. He also used his arms for balance, Parker alleged.

Also, Snyder was not able to touch the tip of his nose with his finger and could not perform the heel-to-toe walking test. Lastly, he failed an eye test, Parker wrote in court paperwork.

Inside Snyder's car, on the right front floorboard, Parker found a soft cooler filled with ice and water, one unopened can of Coors Light and a partially consumed can of the same beer.

Behind the driver's seat, Parker found a paper bag that contained four empty Coors Light cans, two empty beer bottles and one empty bottle of Mike's Hard Lemonade, records show.

Upon Snyder's request, he was taken to Jefferson Memorial Hospital so a blood sample could be drawn, records show. Results of that test are not yet known.

Snyder stayed at Eastern Regional Jail before Magistrate Gail Boober arraigned him at around 8 a.m. Friday using a video conference system, Boober said.

He was released shortly afterward on $3,000 bail.

Snyder, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said he intends to seek a third term in office.

Now, Snyder said he is not sure whether his plans for pursuing re-election will change.

"We'll just have to see how this goes," he said.

Snyder said the arrest could prove to be a turning point in his life.

"It may have been the best thing that could've happened to me," he said.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, said he was glad nobody was hurt and hopes Snyder will successfully complete the treatment program. Unger and Snyder are the two senators who represent the state's 16th Senatorial District.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Sen. Snyder and his family," Unger said. "Alcoholism is an illness and drunk driving is a major problem here in West Virginia and particularly in this region.

"Hopefully better things can come out of it."

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