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Cronin to plead guilty to DUI



Published: Sat, April 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A man driving behind the common pleas court judge called 911 and reported erratic driving.

By PATRICIA MEADE

VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Judge Maureen A. Cronin says she regrets driving after drinking wine and will plead guilty to driving under the influence.

"I made a mistake. I shouldn't have been driving," the Mahoning County common pleas judge said Friday. "I will plead guilty and move on."

Cronin said she was driving home Thursday night from Mountaineer Race Track & amp; Gaming Resort in Chester, W.Va., when stopped by an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper in Boardman. The 51-year-old judge said she'd had "a couple" glasses of wine at the gaming resort.

Cronin did not go to work Friday. When she returns next week, someone will have to drive her until she appears in court and asks the judge for occupational driving privileges.

Cronin is scheduled to appear in Mahoning County Area Court in Boardman at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Her lawyer is Samuel G. Amendolara.

The charges, DUI and a marked lane violation, are misdemeanors, which do not disqualify Cronin from remaining on the bench. She said she refused a breath test at the Canfield post after speaking to Amendolara. She said her license was taken.

Cronin's arrest was videotaped by an OSHP cruiser camera. Lt. Brian Girts, commander at the Canfield post, said the tape will be released to reporters once reviewed by patrol headquarters in Columbus.

"I admitted I had been drinking and said, 'Give me the ticket,'" the judge said Friday. "I went along easily. In my position, I'm not going to fight procedural issues."

911 call

Cronin was stopped at 11:19 p.m. Thursday after a North Bonair Avenue man called 911 and advised the dispatcher at the OSHP post in Canfield that he believed the driver in front of him was impaired. The caller stayed on the phone until Trooper Michael Smith arrived and began to follow Cronin's 2002 Pontiac northbound on state Route 625 (Lockwood Boulevard).

Smith said in his report that the Pontiac drifted from the center line to the white "fog line" several times before stopping at Shields Road for a red light. A fog line is the white line on the edge of roads.

As the light turned green, the car drifted to the right and slightly drove over the fog line, the trooper said.

Roadside questioning

Smith stopped the Pontiac and approached the driver, asking for license, registration and proof of insurance. Cronin handed the trooper her license and then fished in the glove box, retrieving the car's owner's manual, a piece of paper and an envelope marked "registration and insurance."

"Cronin leafed through these three items several times before I pointed out the envelope," Smith wrote in his report. "I asked her back to the cruiser."

He said Cronin left her driver's door wide open and began to walk to the cruiser. The trooper shut the door.

"On the way back to the cruiser, she walked stiff-legged and stopped in the [cruiser's] spot light, putting her hands over her eyes for a couple of seconds," Smith wrote. "As she rounded the hood of the cruiser, she stumbled and I grabbed her arm so she did not fall. I made sure she got in the cruiser safely and closed the door."

Smith said he could smell the odor of an alcoholic beverage as she spoke. He said her eyes were red and glassy and her speech was very slurred.

Before administering a horizontal gaze nystagmus test, Smith asked if she wore contacts or glasses and she said no. At the time, Cronin was holding onto a pair of glasses, he said.

"I asked her if she thought she should have been driving tonight and she said no," Smith reported. "We moved to the front of the cruiser where the one-leg stand [test] was given. She counted to two and stopped and said, 'Take me home.'"

Cronin refused any more tests and said, "Take me home," two more times, the trooper said. He then placed her under arrest and read her rights, after which she referred to herself as an "a--hole," the report shows.

While waiting for someone to come get her car, she tried to put on her glasses, which were bent in the middle, Smith wrote.

"She tried twice to put them on until I told her they were bent," the trooper said. "I asked what happened, and she said I had them."

Once at the Canfield post, Cronin refused the breath test. She was issued a citation and released pending court.

Other judge's DUI

Cronin is not the first common pleas court judge to be charged with DUI.

In October 2003, then-Judge Robert Lisotto of Canfield pleaded guilty to DUI. He received a sentence of 180 days in jail with all but three suspended. The three days were to be spent in an alternative driving school.

Lisotto was fined $250 and received driving privileges that allowed him to travel to and from work.

Canfield police stopped Lisotto on Herbert Road around 1:15 a.m. Sept. 3, 2003, after he was seen driving erratically. Lisotto, who has Alzheimer's disease, resigned last year.




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