State Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia) was found guilty Wednesday of driving under the influence in April 2011.
Judge S. Gerald Corso, a Montgomery County common pleas judge, sentenced the recently re-elected lawmaker to between three days and six months of incarceration and suspended her driver’s license for one year.
The sentence, which Parker plans to appeal, also includes safe-driving and alcohol-awareness classes.
Corso presided over the case following a request from the state Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the matter. Prosecutors argued that it would be “more appropriate” given Parker’s notoriety in Philadelphia.
Not over yet
Defense attorney Joseph Kelly, who is representing Parker, said he will likely file an appeal with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The move would delay Parker’s sentence.
Following Wednesday’s stipulated trial, Kelly said the appeal will again center on whether it is appropriate to overturn a ruling that was based on credibility.
In Nov. 2012, Municipal Court Judge Charles Hayden ruled to suppress all evidence against Parker after he deemed that the testimony given by two arresting officers was not credible and therefore “impossible for the court to accept.”
“Hayden got it right,” said Kelly.
Common Pleas Court Judge Paula Patrick later overturned that decision, saying that Hayden should not have taken the case given his Facebook friendship with Parker. That fact came to light in the media following Hayden’s ruling and was the basis for a Commonwealth appeal.
Following Patrick’s ruling, Parker filed a petition to appeal first in Superior Court and then the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Both requests were denied.
While Wednesday’s ruling was certainly significant from a legal perspective, it’s unclear how important it was otherwise.
Christopher Ellis, associate professor of political science at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, said Parker will likely hold onto her job even if her conviction stands.
” As far as anything formally that could happen, I don’t think there’s a whole lot that can be done,” said Ellis. ” They can’t take her away without an election.”
The fact that news about her arrest broke so long ago, added Ellis, makes it unlikely that the public would ask her to step down. Given the general apathy residents have for state government and state lawmakers, it’s not likely very many care about the case anymore.
” People have probably lost interest,” said Ellis.
He noted that while constituents may take issue with Parker’s DUI conviction, it’s not the type of misstep that typically draws a ton of ire.
Both sides like their chances
Kelly said he remains confident about his chances in this second round of appeals and that his client is “ready for the appellate process.” The Superior Court must now automatically hear the case.
Deputy Attorney General John Flannery, who is prosecuting the case, said he is confident that the Commonwealth will prevail when the case is complete.
Flannery said that the readout from Parker’s Breathalyzer test – 0.16, twice the legal limit – makes her “about as guilty as you can possibly be.”
“I’m sure that the appellate process will uphold our conviction from today,” he added.
It’s unclear when the year-plus long case will be completed. Both Flannery and Kelly said it could take the better part of two years.
“It will not wrap up shortly,” said Kelly, noting that he will likely have an appeal filed in the next 10 days.
The back story
Police pulled Parker over on April 30, 2011 in Germantown after they allegedly spotted her driving her state-issued car the wrong way down a one-way stretch of Haines Street.
Police said Parker told them she had two beers and a chocolate martini at Club Champagne, a fact Parker later denied.
They also testified in September that Parker’s eyes were glassy, that her breath smelled of alcohol and that she had trouble standing and speaking during the stop.
Parker also didn’t have her driver’s license, registration card or insurance card, they said.
Parker has represented Pennsylvania’s 200th Legislative District, which includes sections of the Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill and Roxborough neighborhoods in Philadelphia since 2005.