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Published: Saturday, 12/23/2006

Pitts legally drunk at traffic stop, patrol says

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Pitts Pitts
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

The Rev. Michael Pitts was legally drunk when his vehicle was randomly stopped by an Ohio Highway Patrol trooper this month, results of a urine test show, the highway patrol said.

Mr. Pitts, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Maumee, had a concentration of 0.13 of one gram by weight of alcohol per one hundred milliliters of his urine, which is more than the legal limit of a 0.11 concentration for that test, said highway patrol spokesman Lt. Tony Bradshaw.

Mr. Pitts, 42, of 4055 South Wilkins Rd., Swanton Township, was charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence and had a second arraignment yesterday in Maumee Municipal Court on the charge, now complete with a blood-alcohol concentration.

At the arraignment, Judge Gary Byers suspended Mr. Pitts' driver's license, which is automatic and standard with the charge, and the pretrial date already set for Jan. 16 was confirmed, said Mr. Pitts' attorney, Stephen Hartman. Mr. Pitts' license will remain suspended throughout the course of the case.

Mr. Pitts was stopped by troopers at 3:54 p.m. Dec. 6 on U.S. 20A during a routine vehicle inspection check.

The trooper suspected Mr. Pitts was impaired and put him through a field sobriety test. He was taken to the patrol's Toledo post. Troopers there tried to give him a Breathalyzer test, but it malfunctioned three times.

Mr. Pitts then gave the urine sample, the results of which became available on Wednesday, Mr. Hartman said.

At a news conference the day after Mr. Pitts' arrest, Mr. Hartman said his client drank two glasses of wine at his home and then drove a half-mile to pick up a newspaper when he was stopped for the vehicle check.

At that time, Mr. Hartman also said "there is no evidence of drunk driving or any impaired driving" and "we expect the results of that test will show that he did not, in fact, have a prohibited concentration of alcohol and the charges will be dropped - case closed."

When contacted by The Blade yesterday, Mr. Hartman said the results of the test were surprising.

"It was a bit of a surprise. But this test, as I learn more about it, is inherently inaccurate for judging someone's consumption of alcohol," Mr. Hartman said.

"This will tell you if someone consumed alcohol, but cannot tell you how much, when, or if it had any effect on the person."

He said with a urine test, factors such as whether the person had anything to eat, how much water he drank, or the person's metabolism might affect the results.

"Things that don't affect the blood test or the Breathalyzer have an effect here," he said.

Lieutenant Bradshaw said that all of the alcohol tests the highway patrol uses are "extremely accurate."

He said that each of the tests - breath, blood, and urine - are formulated for different alcohol concentration levels that equal each other as a standard for legal limits.

In the Ohio Revised Code, there are eight parameters of blood-alcohol content levels spelled out for a variety of tests. With the Breathalyzer test, a driver is legally drunk when the test shows a 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content.

Lieutenant Bradshaw said that two hundredths over the legal limit, like Mr. Pitts tested, might not seem like a significant amount, but anything more than the legal amount spelled out in the law is taken seriously.

"All we can say is it's over the legal limit in the state of Ohio," he said. "Anything over the legal limit is a significant amount."

Mr. Hartman said he is speaking with experts to find out what the results of the test mean and the validity of the test to see if there are any legal challenges.

Mr. Pitts - pastor of the 3,000-member church on Reynolds Road and bishop of a network of 25 other churches in the United States and Mexico - also was arrested, and subsequently convicted, of driving under the influence six years ago.

He was stopped Aug. 29, 2000 at Cherry Street and Central Avenue by Toledo police. He pleaded no contest and was found guilty of driving while intoxicated. His license was suspended for six months and he was fined $646 plus court costs.

Shortly after that arrest, Mr. Pitts told his followers at Cornerstone that he "had a little wine with dinner" as he was celebrating his birthday and the completion of a book project.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com or

419-724-6050.



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