By Sue Botos
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Peter Corrigan was found guilty of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol in Rocky River Municipal Court on Jan. 4.
Corrigan admitted that he “made a mistake” after pleading no contest to the charge despite prosecutors’ admission that officers operating the blood alcohol measurement device were having calibration issues.
The second-term judge was found on Dec. 17 in the Rocky River Reservation at the intersection of Valley Parkway and Cedar Point Road, by Cleveland Metroparks rangers around 4:30 a.m. Corrigan was unconscious and slumped over the wheel of his car with his foot on the break, engine running and headlights on. Rangers placed a cruiser in front of Corrigan’s car for fear he would be startled awake and hit the gas, sending the car into the nearby Rocky River.
Corrigan told the officers that he had visited friends and went to a Tremont area restaurant. He failed a field sobriety test, then agreed to a breath test which registered 0.152; nearly double the legal limit.
Rocky River Municipal Court Judge Donna Congeni Fitzsimmons dismissed the blood alcohol charge, but after the no-contest plea, found Corrigan guilty of OVI and of violating a Metroparks ordinance for impeding traffic by stopping or driving slowly. She sentenced him to three days in jail, levied a $500 fine and suspended his drivers’ license for 2013.
Corrigan will be allowed work driving privileges and jail time will be served as a three day education program. Fitzsimmons also placed the former Maine police officer on a one-year probation, subject to random alcohol testing and ordered him to get an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor.
Fitzsimmons also praised Corrigan for pleading no contest and taking the case to trial, where she said there was a reasonable chance for a win on a technicality. That technicality was the fact that the blood alcohol information was the only objective evidence against Corrigan.
According to accounts of the court session, Corrigan’s lawyer Kevin Spellacy said that his client had undergone an assessment on his own and was found not to be dependent on alcohol. However, he stated that Corrigan is voluntarily taking advantage of an Ohio Supreme Court program for lawyers with alcohol and similar issues.
Corrigan first ran for the bench in 2004, beating incumbent Peggy Foley Jones by 26,000 votes. He was unopposed in 2010. Prior to serving Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Corrigan was a member of the county prosecutor’s office as part of the major trials unit.