Saying he has paid a high price for a moment of foolishness, Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson pleaded guilty Friday to two misdemeanor drug charges.
Third Circuit Judge Roger Livingston placed Watson on probation.
In a specially scheduled arraignment Friday afternoon, Watson pleadedguilty to attempted unlawful possession of cocaine, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor.
The Democratic commissioner also announced he intends to plead guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol, a charge he faces in a South Salt Lake court.
The arraignment and sentencing came moments after the drug-related charges were filed Friday afternoon.
Defense attorney Ron Yengich, arguing that his client has admitted his mistakes and suffered much grief already, asked Livingston to place Watson on probation.
Livingston granted the request and suspended a 60-day jail sentence for the attempted possession charge and a 30-day sentence for the paraphernalia charge.
He then ordered Watson to pay $400 in fines, complete three days of community service and continue counseling during a six-month probationary period.
Watson was arrested about 3 a.m. May 15 after a South Salt Lake police officer saw him driving erratically near 2100 S. State.
South Salt Lake prosecutor Clint Balmforth charged Watson with drunken driving in that city's justice court.
The drug investigation was left up to the Salt Lake County attorney's office, which excused itself to avoid a conflict of interest and appointed Wasatch County Attorney Steve Hansen as special prosecutor.
Watson probably could have been charged with felony drug possession. According to Hansen, the state crime lab found "cocaine residue" in a vial taken from Watson the morning of his arrest.
But Hansen and Livingston noted that, in most cases, trace possession cases are either charged as misdemeanors or are pleaded down to misdemeanors.
"I'm satisfied with Watson's plea," Hansen said. "As soon as he pleads guilty to (the drunken-driving charge) this case will be over."
The judge said he is satisfied too. During sentencing, Livingston said he is sure there will be those who will believe the sentence too harsh and those who believe it is too lenient.
"I think it is fair," the judge said, noting that the sentence is punitive but also takes into consideration the anguish Watson has already suffered.
"I wish you well," Livingston told Watson.
Watson told the court that his arrest has been extremely hard on him, his friends and
"The disappointment I've created is something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life," he said.
"I admit I did something very, very foolish. I've paid a high price and a major penalty."
Watson said he can't guarantee he won't offend again but said he doubts he will.
One of the his most painful punishments, Watson said, has been the withdrawal from the race for re-election to a second term as county commissioner.
He was replaced on the Democratic ticket by Riverton Mayor Dale Gardiner.
Yengich told Livingston that Watson is not going to resign. "He believes he has a responsibility to his constituency to serve out his term." The defense attorney said the "clamor of vengeance" from the public will probably haunt Watson throughout the remainder of his term. "But I believe that will make him a better person."
After the proceedings, Watson told reporters he is not proud of what he did but doesn't plan to sulk about it.
"My example, I hope, (to others) is to admit it when you make a mistake but to go forward.
"One thing I've been good at in public life is not covering up."