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Copyright © 2010 The Morning Call

ID: 4760462
Publication Date: October 28, 2010
Day: Thursday
Page: A4
Edition: FIFTH
Section: News
Type: Local
Length: medium

Byline: Christopher Baxter OF THE MORNING CALL

Headline: Easton law may force councilman to resign **Jeffrey Warren's

latest DUI charges would be considered a second-offense, first-degree

Easton Councilman Jeffrey Warren may have to forfeit his elected

position if convicted on charges stemming from his second drunken-
driving arrest during the past decade, but his ultimate fate may rest with
his fellow council members.

The city's Home Rule Charter states any council member "convicted of
any crime classified as a misdemeanor of the second class or higher" must
step down. The charter also states that a member is entitled to a hearing
before council.

William Blake, an assistant district attorney in Northampton County, said

charges Warren faced in 2001 in Washington, D.C., make his arrest in
January in Hellertown a second offense, which in this case carries a first-
degree misdemeanor charge.

Under the charter, a conviction or guilty plea to that charge would

disqualify Warren from council.

Warren was originally charged with a first-offense DUI, which would not
have disqualified him from council on conviction. Blake said his office
was unaware of Warren's prior arrest in Washington until it was reported
this month by The Morning Call.

Warren's Washington arrest also disqualifies him from a first-time

offenders program because it occurred less than 10 years ago, Blake said.

Warren may qualify for a second-time offenders program, he said, which

would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in prison.

Blake added that with a second offense, Warren would not be able to
plead to a lower charge.

Warren and his attorney, James Burke of Bethlehem, did not return
messages seeking comment on the charges. Warren did not attend
Wednesday's City Council meeting.

In reference to his latest DUI charges -- two counts of drunken driving

filed by Hellertown police -- Warren has said "punishment is deserved"
and "the law is the law and I'll be following the letter of the law."

If Warren is convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor charge, it would be

up to his fellow council members to ensure the provisions of the charter,
approved by voters in 2007, are upheld.

Councilman Roger Ruggles, who drafted the forfeiture section of the

charter, said it was created with the intent of holding public officials
accountable for their actions and ensuring trust between Easton residents
and their representatives.

Asked if he would uphold the charter in Warren's case, he said, "Rules are

Councilman Michael Fleck said if at the end of the court process,

Warren's charges disqualify him under the charter, it would be incumbent
on council to honor the law.

"I don't think we would have a choice but to do what the charter says,"
Fleck said.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said last week that Warren's behavior "goes against
the goal of bringing respect back to City Hall."

Warren, 33, of 860 Cattell St. was pulled over about 3:30 a.m. May 6,
2001, at 300 Independence Ave. SW, a block from the Capitol, and
charged with driving while intoxicated and operating a vehicle while
impaired, District of Columbia Superior Court records show.
Warren, who was 23 at the time, was never prosecuted on the charges
because he completed an alcohol education and treatment program for
first-time offenders, court documents state.

On Jan. 23 of this year, Warren was pulled over about 1:30 a.m. in the
1600 block of Main Street in Hellertown after speeding past a police
officer monitoring traffic, according to a police complaint filed with
District Judge David Tidd in Lower Saucon Township.

An officer observed Warren had "red, glassy eyes" and smelled of

alcohol, the complaint states.

Blood tests taken an hour-and-a-half after the traffic stop indicated

Warren had a blood-alcohol level of 0.18 percent, more than twice the
legal limit, documents show.