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By ERIK SCHELZIG, Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Judiciary Chairman Rob Briley, a Nashville Democrat, was charged with driving under the influence and evading arrest after two separate incidents over the weekend, according to police reports.
Briley was arrested again Monday on a vandalism warrant taken out by Watertown police for allegedly causing $1,000 worth of damage to a patrol car by repeatedly kicking a window frame and door frame when he was first arrested.
Wilson County Chief Deputy Larry Bowman said Briley spent Sunday night at a local motel and county officers arrested him Monday morning. He was awaiting release on a $2,500 bond.
Safety Department spokesman Mike Browning said Briley’s sport utility vehicle on Saturday evening struck the rear of a truck in DeKalb County east of Nashville, then turned around and drove away. No one was injured.
Police records show Briley was arrested about 15 minutes later in neighboring Wilson County on charges of driving under the influence, evading arrest and violation of the implied consent law.
Briley, 40, was scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 31 for the original charges. He did not immediately return a call on Monday seeking comment.
Briley’s committee is slated to take up a proposed overhaul of the state’s drunken-driving laws next year. During the last legislative session, Briley asked the sponsors of several drunken-driving measures to hold off consideration of their bills so the General Assembly later take up a comprehensive DUI bill.
Briley was first elected in 1998 and had served as House majority floor leader before being named judiciary chairman by House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh in January. Naifeh, D-Covington, planned to make a statement about the arrest on Monday afternoon, a staffer said.
House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower said it will be “very difficult” for Briley to remain chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
“It’s very unfortunate, and it’s a very sad situation,” said Jason Mumpower, R-Bristol. “As legislators we’re rightfully held to a higher standard, and I think the chairman’s going to have some tough decisions to make in the time to come.”
State Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith called for Briley’s immediate resignation.
Watertown Police Officer Ricky Lucy Jr. wrote in his arrest report that he clocked Briley driving 72 mph in a 45 mph zone, and that Briley accelerated to more than 100 mph after he saw the officer turn on his emergency lights.
Lucy said he chased Briley for about 10 minutes at high speeds, and that the lawmaker finally stopped after spotting another patrol car. Evading arrest can be charged as a Class D felony that can lead to up to 4 years in prison and up to an additional 2-year license suspension.
Briley was charged with driving under the influence after failing a field sobriety test. Briley told the officer that he was dizzy because he was taking anti-depression drugs, according the police report. Briley refused to take a breathalyzer test.
Lucy said he found medications including the depression drug Cymbalta in the car, along with an empty bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon whiskey.
State Sen. Jerry Cooper pleaded no contest last month to drunken driving charge for an accident in February in which his sport utility vehicle overturned several times on Interstate 24 in Rutherford County. The Morrison Democrat, who was critically injured in the Feb. 7 crash, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent.
Tennessee law defines drunken driving as a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent.
Prosecutors in February dropped a DUI charge against former state Sen. Kathryn Bowers, D-Memphis, because a toxicology test was unable to prove she was impaired when she sideswiped a truck while driving on Interstate 240 in Memphis last year.