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Posted October 5, 2011 | comments 15 Comments

Prosecutor amends wrestler's DUI charge

Champion Angle now faces reckless driving count; penalties same

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney Office has reduced a driving under the influence charge against pro wrestling champion Kurt Angle to reckless driving.

Angle was absent from a hearing Tuesday in Warren General District Court during which Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Fleming disclosed the amended charge. Reckless driving and driving under the influence as a first-time offense carry the same penalties -- a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Fleming distributed a press release before the hearing. It read in part: "Based upon our review, the commonwealth feels that a reckless driving charge is strongly supported by the evidence and we have elected to prosecute that charge in lieu of the charge of driving while intoxicated."

Fleming refused to comment on the reasons for amending the charge. Angle's attorney, C. Todd Gilbert, also refused to comment. Judge W. Dale Houff scheduled a trial date for Nov. 8.

Angle, 42, of Corapolis, Pa., was arrested shortly after midnight on Sept. 4 on Interstate 66 near Linden. He had performed at the Shenandoah County Fair in Woodstock earlier in the evening.

A state trooper pulled Angle over after noticing the car he was driving was weaving back and forth over the center line, according to court records.

The arresting officer, C.R. Scally, wrote in his report that he detected "the strong odor of alcoholic beverage" and asked Angle how much he had drank. Angle replied three beers, according to Scally's report.

After Angle struggled with roadside tests, some involving his ability to recite the alphabet and count off numbers, Scally administered a preliminary breath test that registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.091 percent for the wrestler, court records say.

A second blood-alcohol test administered after 2 a.m. at the Front Royal police headquarters showed Angle's blood alcohol level at 0.06, below the legal limit of 0.08.
In comments days after the arrest, Gilbert said the result from the initial roadside test "is so inherently unreliable and the protocols for its use so flawed that these results are inadmissible as evidence under Virginia law."

Gilbert said the second test showing Angle below the legal blood-alcohol limit "is one that passes the rigorous scientific standards set forth by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science."

In a written statement issued two days after the arrest, Angle also denied he was driving while intoxicated.

"I was returning from an iMPACT Wrestling show in an unfamiliar place, late at night and trying to find the exit for my hotel," he said. "I did not believe my driving behavior was reckless or otherwise improper. Apparently law enforcement may have believed otherwise and pulled me over."

15 Comments | Leave a comment

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    Ok, so let me get this straight; he failed the sobreity test and blew more than the legal limit but isn't being charged with a DUI. The test administered in the field is somehow flawed but the one in the jail is scientifically accurate...it's the same test! Again, it goes to show that fame and money are all you need to get out of something. While DUI and reckless driving may carry the same sentencing guidelines, the similarities stop there. Reckless driving won't cause you to have to carry special insurance, won't cause a considerable blemish on your driving record, etc.

    It seriously took them over two hours to administer the second test? What a fiasco. And the Todd Gilbert, who I thought was a delegate has the nerve to say the tests are inadmissable. Maybe he should be doing a little more to make sure people like this are convicted, or would that be against his resposibilities as a lawyer? The only positive thing is Angle didn't run anybody over, and a couple cops kids probably got that autograph they wanted.

    Funny how he went from being drunk to being ok to drive, he was just unfamiliar with the area even though he failed all the tests, admitted to drinking and the officer smelled a strong odor alcoholic beverage. In Warren County its more to do with your name then your crime and this is just another example of that!!!

    In most courts in this jurisdiction the judges reduce first DUI's to reckless driving anyways. In this case I do not believe his fame and money have anything to do with it, however in most cases that would be true.

    Reduced charges for such serious violations that put the general public and motorists in harms way contradict to letter and the purpose of the law.
    It's the same for plea agreements.
    Just keep in mind that the Commonwealth's Attorney is elected. If his office is taking criminal charges less seriously than the citizens are then we have the power to change things if we are united in that purpose.

    In this case, if the arresting officer was confident his tests were conclusive enough to charge the driver with DUI, why was the second test administered, and why was the driver detained when he passed the second test? I suspect the defendant's attorney may be on to something about the admissibility and reliability of roadside tests. Is there a history of conflicting tests, between what is taken on the roadside, and what is taken at the detainment center? Why was the second test administered at the FR Police department, and not at the Warren County Jail? FR doesn't house State Police detained drivers, the county does. There may of been enough errors on the part of the arresting and detaining officers to have the case dismissed or the driver found not guilty, and have nothing to do with the social status of the driver. The prosecutor can only work with what is given to him. The hand he was dealt may have been weak enough he decided to "pass".

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    I don't understand this it might be first offense in Va but this is not his first time come on as it was posted on TMZ, and Wrestling Inc, Angle was previously arrested on March 25, 2011 in Grand Forks, North Dakota and charged with "being in control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated," after failing a field sobriety test. He later pled guilty to the charges and was on April 20 sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, a chemical dependency evaluation, a $250 fine, $225 in court fees, and a ten day suspended jail sentence !!!!!!!! Was this a mistake to OMG give me a break and my grandson just loves this guy geeeeeeeeeese

    The results of the preliminary breath test administered prior to arrest is not admissible in a dui trial pursuant to the Virginia code. The test results at the station are admissible subject to a proper foundation. These two lawyers are experinced trial lawyers that know how to try and defend this kind of case. As for allegations of special treatment for fame and fortune, that is not consistent with my 25 years of defending citzens against criminal charges in this court. On the contrary, the high profile cases attract greater scrutiny of the prosecutor's conduct who will frequently error on the side of harsher treatment to avoid the critcisms made above.

    Unfortunately, some of your readers who commented on the article are uneducated on the legality of a DUI charge. First of all, the test administered at the scene is a preliminary breath test, known as a "PBT." A PBT is not admissable in any DUI charge in any court, regardless of who is the defendant, A PBT test kit is the size of your wallet, the machine that measures your bac (blood alcohol level) at the police station is about the size of your car, and obviously much more accurate, and the results are admissable by statute. The results of a PBT are not admissable by statute. The officer uses the PBT only in his determination as to whether probable cause exists for the arrest. The next comment that he is not "charged" with a DUI is false. He is charged with a DUI, but was reduced by the prosecutor, who knew he was going in to a DUI case with a bac level lower than the presumptive level required for a dui conviction. Secondly, the comment that jurisdictions typically plea bargain first DUIs to reckless is wrong? Tell me where so I may go practice there. Also,I am entitled to drink three beers at a bar and drive home. Just b/c I drink three beers and drive home does not mean I am driving under the influence. Another comment, the CA is an elected position, and he is sworn to protect his jurisdiction, yes, but if you don't know the law and the hurdles he faces in order to ascertain a conviction, then you can;t be that critical b/c you don;t know the rules.

    I think the prosecutor should check his State DUI law.
    I think the law does not delegate him the power to reduce the charge.

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    I am seriously shocked that people are finding this scenario "shocking". We are talking about Front Royal, where Town drunks ride around all day, every day, drinking while driving. Why is anyone surprised that a celebrity is being let off the hook, they don't even arrest the locals..

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    What I don't understand is why everyone is getting so worked up over this. We see so many DUI's around our neck of the woods, and just because it's Kurt Angle, you want to scream about the fact that you believe his fame and fortune had something to do with him getting off the hook easy. No. It's our court system, it's the same way it always has been. His case is not much different from anyone else within the area with DUI charges. Most of the time depending on circumstances, such as past records, the judge and officer(s), and whether or not you were belligerent at the time, etc.. they give you the lesser of the two evils. That's all there is to it, and it's done... over with.

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    Shows what you can get, if you hire a state delegate who sits on the judicial committee and is responsible for appointing judges as your lawyer. Sure has the appearance of the ole boy network. Both Judge Houff, and Delegate Gilbert should resign!!!

    If both charges, DWI and reckless driving, carry the same penalty have they really been reduced or just changed?


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