District justice charged with DUI
A McCandless district justice who crashed his car into a utility pole in North Park was so drunk he fell during his field sobriety check and had trouble standing while being questioned, Allegheny County police said Wednesday.
William K. Wagner, 50, of Pine Villa in McCandless, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and careless driving after the wreck at 11 p.m. Tuesday. If blood-test results come back from a hospital and confirm that, he will be cited by mail within five days, police said.
Employees at Wagner’s office along Route 19 said he was not commenting on the incident.
Wagner was on the job yesterday morning. The cases before him included those of six people charged with DUI.
When told of Wagner’s arrest, DUI defendant Robert Cugini, 40, of McCandless, said he could empathize.
“It’s unfortunate. It’s traumatic to say the least,” Cugini said. “I know how he feels. Such as I did, he made a mistake.
“I feel that he should be subject to the same process as any other first-time offender,” he said.
Wagner crashed his white Toyota 4-Runner into a utility pole at Kummer and Ingomar roads. Police said Wagner told the officer he had swerved to avoid hitting a deer.
Several unnamed witnesses said that Wagner “drove straight into the pole and that he was visibly intoxicated,” a police report says. The officer noted a strong odor of alcohol and said Wagner had trouble standing and walking.
During a field sobriety test, Wagner fell while trying to hold his leg in the air for two seconds, and he lost his balance five times during a walking test, the report says.
Wagner’s vehicle was towed, and he submitted to a blood test at UPMC Passavant hospital, McCandless.
Wagner’s district justice seat, which covers McCandless, Marshall, Franklin Park and Bradford Woods, is not up for election until 2005.
Francis Puskas, assistant counsel to the state Judicial Conduct Board, said a DUI conviction likely would draw the attention of the board, which investigates wrongdoing by judges and district justices.
“It’s a violation of the law, and it’s something they are prohibited from doing under the (Pennsylvania) constitution,” Puskas said.
In 1997, the state Court of Judicial Discipline heard a case against Paul Walters, a district justice in Dillsburg, York County, who had been arrested on DUI charges. The court did not impose any sanctions on Walters, who was defeated for re-election in 1999.
McCandless resident Norm Fauth, who was eating at a lunch counter near Wagner’s office, said Wagner should face the same consequences as the drunken drivers who pass through his courtroom.
“He’s only human, but so were those six that he sent down,” Fauth said. “Here’s a guy that should know better. He has to set an example.”
Last month, Millvale District Justice Richard McCarthy was suspended for six months — two without pay — for drinking on the job, mooning a woman in a bar, getting into a fight at a bar and sideswiping a car while driving away from a bar. Common Pleas Judge H. Patrick McFalls and Mt. Lebanon District Justice William Ivill III both resigned last year amid investigations into alcohol-related incidents.