Salt Lake County Commissioner Dave Watson was given a $1,000 fine and a 60-day suspended jail sentence Tuesday for his guilty plea to a drunken driving charge.
After the sentencing, Watson said the criminal episode that started when he was arrested in South Salt Lake May 15 is now behind him, and he plans to continue in his job as county commissioner. "I still feel like I can perform at the levels I did before I made this mistake," Watson said.Watson also pleaded guilty May 27 in 3rd Circuit Court to two misdemeanor drug charges: attempted unlawful possession of cocaine, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B misdemeanor. He was given 60-day and 30-day suspended jail sentences for the respective charges and was ordered to pay $400 in fines and complete three days of community service.
George H. Searle, South Salt Lake's Justice of the Peace who sentenced Watson, said Watson's sentence is the same that he gives anyone for this kind of DUI offense. Watson's attorney, Ron Yengich, encouraged the judge to consider reducing the $1,000 DUI fine. Searle said the fine could have been worse. If the amount was a problem for Watson, "Loan him the money," Searle told Yengich.
"I will say the fine is in accordance with what he gives everybody else," South Salt Lake prosecutor Clint Balmforth told Yengich.
Searle also included two days of community service in the sentence. Yengich also asked
the judge to allow Watson to perform the service outside South Salt Lake, but Searle refused. Searle said Watson will likely wash city cars for his community service.
Watson said after the sentencing he may have been singled out by the justice system for his crimes because he is a public official but said that "may be good to show elected officials are not above the law." The most difficult part of the ordeal is the embarrassment of arrest and convictions to his supporters and family.
Yengich agreed Watson had been singled out and said the drug charges may have been dropped if it hadn't been for media attention. "For you this is a story," he told reporters. "For him, this is his life."
"The manner in which this case was handled was in large part because of the media," Yengich said, adding he didn't know whether that was good or bad.