A state legislator who has been fighting a drunk driving charge for six months has reversed course and pleaded guilty.
State Representative Kerry Burt, a Democrat from Waterloo, now admits he was drunk and a judge has ordered him to pay a $625 fine and attend an Operating While Intoxicated education program. He’ll be on probation for a year and could be tested for substance abuse.
Burt’s trial on the drunken driving charge had been scheduled to start Monday in Des Moines. He was charged February 11, 2009, with drunken driving in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny.
In a written statement issued midday today, Burt said there’s no one to blame but himself for what he described as a "foolish decision" that was "completely out of character." (You can read the full statement below.) Burt went on to say he wanted to set the record straight and he offered his own account of what happened early that morning.
In video released by the Ankeny Police Department in July, Burt can be heard telling the arrresting officer he’d been drinking with the governor that evening. In July, Governor Culver said he’d been to the same reception Burt attended that night, then had a glass of wine over dinner with a group of legislators. The governor said he was home by nine p.m. and had no idea what Burt did after that; Burt was arrested almost six hours later.
Burt, in his written statement, said his tire blew out as he was driving on Interstate-35 and he ran into a concrete barrier, damaging his SUV. Burt said he drove on, exited the highway and then pulled into a convenience store parking lot. Burt said that’s where he was approached by the Ankeny cop and Burt went on to applaud the officer for doing his job.
Burt is a first-term legislator from Waterloo, a former Iowa Hawkeye football player who lost his job as a fire fighter because he lost his commercial driver’s license after the drunken driving arrest.
Burt said in his written statement that he "made a terrible mistake" and is paying the price.
Burt’s also in hot water over listing the wrong home address on registration papers which let him avoid paying over $35,000 in tuition so his children could attend the Price Lab School in Cedar Falls.
Here is the statement Burt issued today: "I wish to apologize to my family, colleagues, constituents, and all who share Iowa’s roads for my poor judgment in drinking and driving. There is no one but me to blame for my foolish decision. Everyone who knows me recognizes that this action was completely out of character, and I will not allow it to happen again.
"In the hope of setting the record straight so that all of us may move forward, I will relay what happened that morning: While driving on I-35 my tire blew out, which caused my vehicle to swerve and hit a barrier.
"After determining that no one was hurt, I cautiously drove with flashers on to the nearest exit, where I knew I would find a convenience store at which to park and wait for a ride.
"In the parking lot was Officer Phinney, who I approached to report the incident. He suspected that I had been drinking, and – following proper police procedure – tested and subsequently arrested me. The officer treated me with courtesy and respect and I applaud him for doing his job.
"Contrary to a particular media depiction, I do not consider myself above the law or deserving of any preferential treatment. I made a terrible mistake and rightfully am paying a price. I hope this statement clears up any confusion that has surrounded this incident since I have no further comment on it. Instead, I wish to focus my energies on putting together solid legislation that benefits the state and community to which I am devoted."