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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — U.S. Sen. Michael Crapo pleaded guilty today to a charge of driving while intoxicated and then apologized for his actions and asked forgiveness from his constituents.
The Idaho Republican said nothing during a brief appearance in Alexandria General District Court, where he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor and was ordered to pay a $250 fine and complete an alcohol safety program. He also agreed to a 12-month suspension of his driver's license. The sentence is typical for first-time drunken-driving offenders in Virginia.
But outside of court and in a subsequent conference call with reporters in his home state, Crapo apologized and said he'd been drinking alcohol a few nights a week, in violation of the tenets of his Mormon faith.
Crapo said he tried alcohol for the first time about a year ago, though he couldn't remember the details. It was a misguided attempt to relieve stress, he said, and he always kept his use of alcohol hidden, drinking alone in his Washington, D.C., apartment. The night of his arrest was the first time he had driven drunk, Crapo said.
"I was already thinking in my own mind that this had to end," Crapo said. "I believe in my heart that I had already recognized that I was on a bad path and I needed to find a different path to follow."
Crapo said he consumed "several, probably two to three" vodka tonics at his Washington home on the night of Dec. 22 when he became restless, couldn't sleep and went out for a drive. It wasn't until he'd already been driving for about 30 minutes when he realized he was in no condition to drive and started to return home, he said. He ran a red light and was pulled over in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, in the early morning hours of Dec. 23.
Crapo failed a field sobriety test and registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.11 percent after his arrest, police said, above the legal limit of 0.08. No mention of his blood-alcohol level was made in court Friday, but a second test performed after Crapo was brought to the jailhouse registered at 0.14 percent, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the arrest. The official wasn't authorized to release information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
"I am grateful, truly grateful, that no one was injured," Crapo said.
Crapo said he was not with anyone at the time, and was not coming or going from seeing anybody. He was discouraged because a late night of Senate work on a Friday caused him to miss a flight home, forcing him to spend an extra day away from family. His next flight was scheduled for Sunday, the day of his arrest.
His arrest stunned colleagues and constituents alike, not only because of his squeaky-clean image but also because he had said he doesn't drink, in accordance with his church's practices.
Crapo said he regretted bringing shame to himself and his faith because of the arrest and he would take the appropriate measures for forgiveness and repentance in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I'm swearing off alcohol and I am not going to continue to drink," Crapo said.
Public officials should be held to higher standards, Crapo said, and he believes his constituents are disappointed by his conduct. But he said he doesn't think the arrest will derail his political career, and he hopes that by giving a full explanation of the circumstances, he can regain the public trust.
"I fully intend to continue to try to make a contribution in the United States Senate," Crapo said, adding that he expects to run for the office again in 2016.
He said he'll walk to work, take a taxi or make other transportation arrangements while his license is suspended over the next year.
As long as he remains on good behavior, Crapo won't have to serve a 180-day suspended jail sentence. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge of failing to obey a traffic signal.
Crapo said he privately explained and apologized to his family for the embarrassment that he caused, and he was grateful for their support and encouragement.
"I have a strong marriage and my wife and I love each other," he said.