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Wednesday, Mar 03 2010 11:07 AM

Sen. Roy Ashburn "deeply sorry" after DUI arrest

The last year of Roy Ashburn’s state Senate career was marred early Wednesday when he was arrested by the California Highway Patrol on suspicion of driving drunk near the Capitol in downtown Sacramento.

Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, issued a statement taking full responsibility and apologizing to his family, constituents, friends and Senate colleagues.

“I am deeply sorry for my actions and offer no excuse for my poor judgment,” said Ashburn, who through a spokesman declined to be interviewed. “I accept complete responsibility for my conduct and am prepared to accept the consequences for what I did.”

The veteran Kern County lawmaker was spotted weaving at about 2 a.m. Wednesday and was pulled over, said Sgt. Rick Campbell of the CHP in Sacramento.

He had bloodshot, watery eyes and smelled of alcohol, Campbell said, and completed a field sobriety test at the scene, at 13th and L streets, Campbell said.

He said Ashburn was determined to be under the influence of alcohol and arrested on misdemeanor charges at about 2:10 a.m.

Ashburn was taken to a Sacramento County jail and given a chemical test, the results of which were still pending, Campbell said.

He was booked into jail on two misdemeanor charges — driving under the influence and driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher — and released, Campbell and jail officials said.

“He was extremely cooperative throughout the entire process,” Campbell said of Ashburn, who is terming out of office at the end of this year. Ashburn has been in politics pretty much his entire adult life, including as an assemblyman and Kern County supervisor.

Campbell said the black Chevrolet Tahoe Ashburn was driving was a state car. He said an adult male was also in the vehicle but since he was not arrested, the CHP wouldn’t release much information about him.

Campbell did not believe the man was a state government official.

Court officials said the standard punishment for a person convicted of a first-time DUI offense in Sacramento County includes: three years unsupervised probation; a fine of $480 plus multiple penalty assessments totaling more than $1,000 or 18 days in county jail; 48 hours in county jail, though the inmate can serve it through an out-of-jail work project; and completion of a first-time DUI offender program.

Neither a driving under the influence arrest nor conviction violates any Senate ethics rules, which govern a member’s actions as a senator and not as a private citizen, said Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

What the arrest means for Ashburn’s future in general depends on what more comes out about his arrest, such as his blood alcohol level, said Stan Harper, a local Republican political consultant and friend of Ashburn’s.

Political observers have wondered if Ashburn will seek some sort of gubernatorial appointment after his Senate term ends. But Harper said the last time he spoke to the senator, Ashburn was not angling for an appointment.

Ashburn “was looking at other avenues” but wasn’t specific, Harper said. He said Ashburn “had some things in mind that were promising.”

“If that’s the case,” Harper said of Ashburn not seeking a political appointment, “I don’t see how (the arrest) affects his future one way or another.”

Ashburn’s arrest was “disappointing” to Nancy Chaffin, spokeswoman for the anti-drunk driving program “A Life Interrupted” and The Californian’s vice president of human resources.

“He’s supposed to set the example,” Chaffin said. “He’s a leader and he should avoid setting the example that it’s OK to do this.”

Candi Easter, chairwoman of the Kern County Democratic Party, said she just felt sorry for Ashburn and his family.

“It’s a sad moment in his life and I’m terribly sorry for him,” Easter said. “We all wish he would have used better judgment. I just feel sad for him.”

The car Ashburn was driving was impounded at the Capitol, said Tony Beard Jr., chief sergeant of arms for the state Senate.

Beard, who has worked in Senate protection for more than 40 years, said it has been several years since a state lawmaker has been arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Through his spokeswoman, Steinberg declined to comment on the arrest. So did Assemblywoman Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, who is running to replace Ashburn in the sprawling 18th Senate District, which includes much of Bakersfield.

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