Former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel plans to contest his New York drunken driving charge, saying he had only two drinks and wasn’t intoxicated when police pulled him over at 2:30 a.m. Monday on Long Island.
A day after Ravenel was released on $650 bail, the former politician and aspiring reality TV star issued a media statement defending his conduct while driving in East Hampton.
“When I’m wrong I admit it — and make it right. That’s what Thomas Ravenel does,” he said.
“In this situation, however, I emphatically reject the allegations of intoxication and erratic driving. As I told the arresting officer — who I respect for doing his job — I had a beer at the club and a glass of wine prior to that at dinner. I was not drunk, and I look forward to making my case in court.”
Ravenel, of Charleston, was pulled over at Montauk Highway and Stephen’s Hands Path in East Hampton Village, located toward the far eastern edge of Long Island. He was there playing polo with the Southhampton Polo team.
Ravenel, 50, said he was following the directions coming from his SUV’s global positioning system when he took a turn opposite from where the device was telling him. The move put him in front of the East Hampton police station, he said.
A police incident report said Ravenel was stopped because he was observed crossing the solid white line and onto the shoulder, and had crossed the solid double line at the road center.
Ravenel disputed that his driving was out of sorts. “I was driving fine,” he said. “I wasn’t drunk.”
Ravenel said he took a breath sobriety test at the stop that he later learned put his blood alcohol content at .09. The legal BAC threshold in New York state is .08.
The police incident report says Ravenel’s appearance was questionable. The defendant’s “breath smelled strongly of an odor of an alcoholic beverage, his eyes were red and glassy, he was unsteady on his feet, he failed several roadside sobriety tests,” it said.
Ravenel said he was taken to the police station for another test, but in the interim, he called his attorney in South Carolina to seek legal advice. That advice was not to take another test.
Ravenel said Tuesday that in hindsight, he should have rejected the suggestion because by that time he had sobered and would have passed a second test as legal for being behind the wheel. Also, he subsequently learned New York’s DUI laws differ from South Carolina’s, and that he faces loss of his driving privileges in New York for a year because of his test rejection.
“Stupid, stupid mistake,” he said about not taking a breath test.
“I took the advice of a lawyer who did not understand New York law.” Repeated calls to Mothers Against Drunk Driving on Long Island were not returned. The exact charge was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Ravenel declined to say if he was alone in the vehicle.
The police incident report provided by East Hampton was redacted in several places but did list a “friend” under the title of “associated person information.”
Ravenel said he expects to plea the case down based on what he called mitigating factors.
Ravenel, once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, resigned his post as state treasurer in 2007, later pleading guilty to cocaine possession. He was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison and three years of probation.
He said Tuesday he is free and finished with his federal sentencing obligations and has no problem with alcohol or addiction. His statement Tuesday did make a reference to his past.
“While I have never believed recreational drug use within one’s home to be something worthy of criminalization, when I was arrested on this charge in 2007 I was a statewide elected official,” it read.
He continued, “as such, I should have exercised better judgment — which is why I apologized to the people of my state for letting them down. Of course I then did something few politicians ever do — I took responsibility for my actions and I paid my debt to society.”
The statement continued with his denial of being intoxicated.
Ravenel, who is doing a reality TV show for the Bravo network that is being shot in Charleston called “Southern Charm,” has hinted he was considering a run for U.S. Senate against fellow Republican, incumbent Lindsey Graham. It was unclear how his recent arrest would affect that decision. On Tuesday, he said he would address any political implications at a later date.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.