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He went for a drunken joyride in the Keys, police say. But it wasn’t in a car

A 35-year-old Boca Raton man was jailed early Wednesday after police said he stole a piece of construction equipment and drove it while drunk on the Overseas Highway in the Lower Keys.

Christopher Paul Hawkins was arrested at mile marker 30 on Big Pine Key after a Monroe sheriff’s deputy spotted him at about 1:35 a.m. driving a big yellow motor grader in the southbound lane with no lights on.

Hawkins was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, DUI with property damage, driving with a suspended license, grand theft and criminal mischief.

Deputies recognized the Leeboy 685B grader as part of a road construction project underway and located several hundred feet away from where Hawkins was stopped.

When asked to step out of the grader, Hawkins almost fell, deputies reported.

“Hawkins had trouble standing and appeared to be intoxicated,” said Adam Linhardt, sheriff’s office spokesman. “He stated he didn’t remember how much he had to drink, but that his pickup truck was parked at a bar on Little Torch Key.”

Hawkins refused to take the field sobriety tests or later provide a breath sample, police said.

Hawkins damaged the sidewalk and the roadway while operating the vehicle, deputies said. The grader is valued at about $120,000, police said.

On Wednesday afternoon, he remained in jail on $21,000 bond. 

In February 2016, a homeless man took a 2015 John Deere backhoe for a joyride on the Seven Mile Bridge, leading deputies on a slow-speed chase, which was captured on video.

Carl J. Blahnik later was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $17,558 for damage to the backhoe and $26,304 for damage to the bridge. 

Deputies followed the backhoe while Blahnik drove back and forth.

The backhoe finally stopped when deputies set up road spikes to deflate its tires. VideoDuration -:-Video: Homeless man takes backhoe for joyride on Seven Mile BridgeOfficials say a 59-year-old man took a backhoe on a joyride across the famous Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, dumping boulders onto the road along the way. BY MCCLATCHY

Florida Keys police said they caught a Boca Raton man driving this motor grader along U.S. 1 in the Lower Keys on Sept. 23, 2020. He stole the grader and went on a drunken joyride, police said.MONROE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
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FBI L.A. chief reassigned amid flap over agents’ meeting at Dodgers playoff game

The FBI seal is seen before FBI Director Christopher Wray news conference on the inspector general’s report at FBI headquarters on Thursday, June 14, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The FBI has quietly shuffled one of its highest-ranking officials out of his post in the aftermath of a Justice Department watchdog report sharply critical of senior Los Angeles-based FBI brass for holding a weekly meeting at a Major League Baseball playoff game at Dodgers Stadium two years ago.

Eight FBI officials sat in the middle of the exclusive Stadium Club at a window table with “an unobstructed view of the field” as the Dodgers prepared for a late afternoon face-off with the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 3 of the National League championship series, the DOJ’s inspector general found in a report made public Monday.

Sitting amid members of the public, the senior FBI agents discussed criminal “takedowns” planned for the coming weeks, as well as sensitive matters related to counterintelligence. All but one of the eight also dined on a buffet provided by the Dodgers for VIP guests, according to accounts from the agents and other evidence.

The most senior official at the event — Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt — was reassigned in recent weeks from his position overseeing the FBI’s 1,400 employees in the Los Angeles area, according to a footnote in the report. The Los Angeles office and those in New York and Washington are the only FBI field offices by an official of Delacourt’s rank.

An FBI spokesperson confirmed the move and said the 25-year veteran of the agency is now assigned to FBI headquarters in Washington. She declined to discuss the reasons for the change and said the bureau does not discuss personnel matters.

The inspector general report faulted Delacourt and Voviette Morgan, a special agent in charge of the office’s criminal division, as primarily responsible for the event and for showing “poor judgment.” Morgan appears to remain in her position overseeing criminal investigations in the Los Angeles region. Several other officials also remain in their posts, according the FBI’s website, which now lists the San Francisco office’s chief, John Bennett, as acting head of the L.A. office.

Delacourt’s transfer isn’t considered punishment under FBI policy. Lawrence Berger, a lawyer for the former L.A. office leader and others dinged in the report, stressed that no discipline has been imposed on the accused officials.

“The allegations … with respect to all parties involved and all issues, have not been adjudicated by the FBI, nor have they been sustained by the FBI. That is a process that is ongoing, and we’re going to wait for its completion,” said Berger.

The imbroglio over the Dodgers game meeting arose at a sensitive time for the FBI: Just as Director Christopher Wray was trying to get the agency back on an even keel and keep it out of the headlines amid continuing tensions with President Donald Trump.

The agency had also just weathered the firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and a slew of reports of alleged misconduct, including a brutal inspector general’s review on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

The 50-page report on the Dodgers game episode says Delacourt remains insistent that there was no impropriety in the handling of the Oct. 15, 2018, meeting and disputes the watchdog office’s conclusion that he gave the FBI’s No. 2 official, David Bowdich, a skewed and incomplete account of what transpired.

“We remain troubled that an FBI executive with Delacourt’s experience still, to this day, does not recognize this failing,” the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s office says.

The report also found that FBI leaders in Los Angeles ignored concerns bureau personnel raised in advance about the propriety of the planned meeting, as well as a verbal warning from the FBI’s special events coordinator not to eat at the Stadium Club or partake of free food aside from hot dogs available at a command post outside the stadium.

When the field office’s top lawyer approached Delacourt shortly after the event and said those who attended might need to pay about $500 apiece to the Dodgers as a reimbursement, the FBI official emphatically disagreed, emphasizing the hours the top agents spent in briefings before the game began.

“This was a day at the office and he’s in here talking about luxury suites and fair market value of NLCS tickets. and I’m like, you’re not listening to me,” Delacourt told investigators, referring to the lawyer. “He began to give me … lawyerly answers: I understand your position. … [T]o me [that] meant, Screw you, I don’t believe you. And that was how we started this conversation. Shame on him.”

There are hints that the interactions of FBI personnel over the playoff game meeting grew even more acrimonious.

On the day in July that the inspector general’s office released a bare-bones summary of its investigation (omitting the fact that it was about the Dodgers game or Los Angeles), the internal watchdog revealed that an unnamed senior official retaliated against an unnamed supervisory special agent for reporting that “the senior official and other managers committed ethics violations.” The Justice Department oversight office released a version of the report to POLITICO this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Dodgers website promotes the venue where the FBI meeting took place as a luxurious spot for the well-heeled to take in a game away from the hustle and bustle of thousands of fans.

“The exclusive Stadium Club offers members one of the most unrivaled encounters in professional sports,” an inviting promotional video posted online declares. “Enjoy our chef’s table that offers an all-you-can-eat buffet to choose from that changes from game to game and includes impressive carving stations, salad bars, desserts and even your beloved Dodger Dog. … Reserve one of the club’s front rail seats and you’ll never have to leave the club to watch the game.”

The watchdog report refrains from characterizing the buffet the FBI brass indulged in, beyond calling it “extensive.” On the day the agents visited, the smorgasbord included “a carving station for meat, shrimp, salads, pasta, Dodger dogs, pizza, and a dessert station,” the report says.

The agents later paid $20 per person to a Dodgers charity to cover the cost of the meal. While the team at one point told Morgan that the cost for the buffet was $87 for the entire group, investigators later found that the baseball team valued the buffet at $62.95 a person and listed the FBI officials in its own records as a “full comp.”

While several FBI agents told the IG they modified their presentations at the meeting because of the unusual public venue, the IG noted that when it came time to process its investigative report for public release, the FBI asked that “a number of items” discussed at the Dodgers Stadium meeting be deleted as “law enforcement sensitive.” That bolstered the investigators view that the matters weren’t appropriate for discussion in a venue open to the public.

The report also indicates that Delacourt called Bowdich the day after the event, offering a heads-up that a complaint had been made about the lunch meeting. The inspector general’s report doesn’t directly accuse Delacourt of dishonesty, but says the account he gave Bowdich wasn’t “complete” and “deprived Bowdich of the ability to arrive at an informed judgment about the events and to take appropriate action.”

Bowdich recalled Delacourt mentioning a sandwich lunch available to all law enforcement and that they “ended up” in a “box,” the report says.

“Delacourt, however, did not tell Bowdich that the ‘restaurant’ where they ate was the exclusive Stadium Club, that the ‘conference table’ was a Stadium Club dining table located adjacent to the railing overlooking the playing field, that the LAFO weekly executive meeting was held in a public area of the Stadium Club at a dining table surrounded by other tables occupied by fans, or that the ‘meal’ was from an extensive buffet that was for the use of Dodger fans who had access to the Stadium Club.”

The report also faulted special agent in charge for intelligence Stephen Woolery for drinking alcohol at the stadium, although he maintained he had only one drink. Investigators said that violated FBI policy because he was officially on duty, and it reinforced perceptions that the visit wasn’t really a work event. However, the report said there was no evidence Woolery was impaired and noted that no FBI policy specifically prohibits personnel from carrying a firearm or driving a government-owned vehicle after drinking.

Controversies over attendance at major sporting events have cut short the careers of several top FBI agents in recent years. About a decade ago, a special agent in charge at the Los Angeles office resigned after coming under scrutiny for accepting National Basketball Association tickets.

And in 2018, about eight months before the Dodgers game episode, top FBI public affairs official Mike Kortan resigned after facing allegations that he took baseball tickets from CNN and New York Times reporters.

The outcome of the Dodgers game may have been a bad omen for those attending: The home team was shut out, 4-0, by the Milwaukee Brewers. The Dodgers did go on to win the league championship, but were defeated by the Red Sox in the World Series.

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Mayor arrested for DWI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Parkville Mayor Nan Johnston was arrested Saturday for driving while intoxicated, according to the Platte County Sheriff’s Office.

Major Eric Holland confirmed to 41 Action News that the arrest occurred Saturday morning.

When contacted Sunday night, Johnston declined to comment.

Johnston, who has served as Parkville’s mayor since 2014, faced a fine from the Missouri Ethics Commission earlier this year for campaign finance violations committed during her latest reelection bid.

Prior to her tenure as mayor, she served six years on the city’s Board of Aldermen.

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With School Year Just Begun, 2 Bus Drivers Charged With DUI

Just weeks into the school year, two school bus drivers have been arrested and charged with driving a bus while impaired.

In Billings, Montana, police on Thursday arrested a driver on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs and felony criminal endangerment. He had 28 students on board.

And in Bryant, Arkansas, a driver was charged Aug. 27 with driving under the influence of drugs, careless driving and endangering the welfare of minors after, police say, she drove her bus off the road into a ditch.

Nationwide, more than 1,620 schoolchildren in 38 states have been put at risk since 2015 by bus drivers arrested or cited on suspicion of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, a Stateline investigation in January found.

Police have caught at least 118 drivers in that time, and more than a third of the cases involved a bus crash.

Stateline also found that no one at the state or federal level appears to track these cases involving school bus drivers, and many state agencies weren’t even able to compile such information.

School transportation groups say school buses are the safest means for students to get to school, and most drivers would never put children at risk. None of the incidents found by Stateline resulted in a bus driver or passenger fatality, and most of the students were not injured.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 480,000 buses carried more than 25 million students to and from school and other activities, such as sports events and field trips, each school day, according to Charlie Hood, executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. While many drivers work for school districts, about a third are employed by private bus companies that contract with districts.

This school year, some schools have returned to in-person classes while others have not and are continuing remote learning.

Hood said he doesn’t know how many buses currently are in operation because there’s such a wide variety of opening plans that affect transportation.

In the Montana case, a school staffer notified an officer that multiple students riding on the bus were reporting “erratic and unsafe driving behavior,” according to a Billings Police Department news release.

In the Arkansas case, the bus driver was “noticeably impaired” while speaking to an officer, according to the Bryant Police Department. Tests showed that she was under the influence of prescription drugs, police said. Eleven children were on board.

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Diversion agreement allows former Ouray County sheriff to have DUI dismissed

Ouray County’s former sheriff will see his DUI case dismissed if he successfully completes the terms of a diversion program.

Lance FitzGerald was accused last November of driving under the influence of alcohol after a night on the town in Ridgway with his former girlfriend, Jamie Johnson.

He called deputies after an argument with Johnson, to allege domestic violence because Johnson reportedly struck him during the argument. Upon arriving at his home, the responding deputy noticed FitzGerald appeared to be intoxicated.

After transporting Johnson into custody for alleged domestic violence, the deputy returned to FitzGerald’s home to administer an alcohol test.

FitzGerald reportedly blew well above the legal limit, although by the time of the test, FitzGerald had consumed more alcohol at his home, which may have affected the test results.

Johnson’s case was dismissed a few months ago, after the 7th Judicial District Attorney’s Office was unable to serve FitzGerald with a subpoena to obtain his presence for trial, DA Dan Hotsenpiller said.

Hotsenpiller said that despite extensive efforts that included sending an investigator to Ouray County more than once, the office was unable to serve FitzGerald. By the time of Johnson’s pretrial conference, prosecutors did not have their complaining witness under subpoena and therefore could not proceed, Hotsenpiller said.

After a January incident at a Loveland hotel where FitzGerald and Johnson stayed during a Colorado Sheriff’s Association conference, a bipartisan group mounted a recall effort to remove the then-sheriff. (The Loveland police considered the call a disturbance and no charges were filed.)

FitzGerald was ousted from office in June and Ouray County voters chose Justin Perry as the new sheriff.

FitzGerald’s case was prosecuted by the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in La Plata County.

Friday, 6th Judicial District Assistant District Attorney David Ottman confirmed FitzGerald has entered a diversion agreement. Under the agreement, if he abides by the stated terms and conditions for one year without incurring new violations other than traffic infractions, the DUI case will be dismissed.

The terms include an alcohol evaluation, following recommended treatment and performing 48 hours of useful public service.

“A diversion agreement is imposed while a case is still pending and should Mr. FitzGerald not comply, we can file with the courts to move forward,” Ottman said.

Because the case is not yet dismissed, he could not offer specific comment as to why the agreement was reached, but said such agreements are based on careful review of facts and information specific to a given defendant.

“The diversion program exists for low-level offenders and provides them with an avenue to (change) their behavior. We went through that process with Mr. FitzGerald,” Ottman said.

“Hopefully, Mr. FitzGerald is successful. That is our wish for everyone who enters into a diversion agreement.”