Apex Town Councilor Scott Lassiter has decided not to blame his recent driving while impaired conviction on indigestion. He had planned to argue before a jury in Wake County Superior Court that Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)—the common cause of indigestion and heartburn—contaminated his breathalyzer reading. Instead, he accepted the guilty verdict at an appeal hearing today.
Lassiter registered a blood alcohol content of .11, three-tenths of a point higher than the legal limit for driving, when he was charged with the misdemeanor in February 2011. Despite being charged nine months before he won a town council seat, the story of his arrest didn’t surface until after the election.
Lassiter and his attorney, James Crouch, appealed the guilty verdict as soon as it was handed down in January. At Monday’s hearing Crouch cited money as Lassiter’s reason for not going ahead with the appeal.
“He’d have had to hire at least two experts and there is no guarantee of the outcome,” said Crouch. “I think he really wanted to get it behind him and not have it be a distraction to the people of Apex.”
A doctor and a breathalyzer expert are needed to present for a GERD defense. Lassiter will now serve 12 months of unsupervised probation, pay a $100 fine, undergo an alcohol assessment and do community service.
Some community members in Apex, including former councilor Bryan Gossage, have said Lassiter should step down if convicted. But Lassiter, with the backing of fellow-Republican Mayor Keith Weatherly, has said he does not intend to give up his seat.
The State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the conduct of Crouch, a high-profile DWI attorney, and Wake County District Court Judge Kristin Ruth over the alleged changing of conviction dates in about a dozen DWI cases. The list of cases and defendants has not been released, but currently there is no disclosed evidence that Lassiter was among them.