Princeton Township Committeeman Lance Liverman pleaded guilty in Hopewell Township Municipal Court Sept. 20 to driving while intoxicated and his driver’s license has been suspended for seven months. He will be required to attend the state’s intoxicated driver program, and once he gets his license back, he will have to drive with an interlock device on his car for six months, court records show.
Liverman must pay fines and fees totaling $1,053 for the DWI and the refusal to take a breathalyzer test, according court records. As part of the plea deal, charges against Liverman for reckless driving and failing to maintain lanes were dismissed.
The case stems from an Aug. 9 incident in which Liverman hit a parked tractor-trailer on the shoulder of Interstate 95 near Scotch Road while he was driving home from Philadelphia just before 2 a.m. Liverman’s car was totaled in the crash. Police charged Liverman with operating a motor vehicle under the influence, driving recklessly, making an unsafe lane change and refusing to take a breathalyzer test following the accident.
After the incident, Liverman said he did not believe he was driving above the legal alcohol limit. He said he was driving while too tired, and that he dozed off for a second or two, and veered into the tractor-trailer. He later made a public apology, saying he should not have been driving while so tired. A member of the boards of the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance and Corner House, Liverman also said he was unaware that refusing a breathalyzer test meant he could be ticketed and given a DUI.
On Sept. 11, Liverman appeared in Hopewell Township Court for a pre-trial conference. No agreement was reached with the municipal prosecutor, Liverman’s lawyer Stephen Krazny said he would review the discovery in the case, and Liverman’s trial was scheduled for Oct. 9.
Liverman chose instead to appear in court on Sept. 20 and enter a guilty plea. Liverman then gave an exclusive to The Town Topics, which previously did not report at all on his DWI. He told the reporter he made an early, quiet court appearance to avoid the “media melee” that he experienced Sept. 11 in court and that he intended to plea guilty all along but didn’t want to with all the reporters there. In fact only two reporters – a Planet Princeton reporter and a reporter from the AOL Patch chain – were at that court appearance, and both chatted with Liverman before the hearing. Liverman told the Town Topics that asking that his name not appear on the docket was something that happens all the time and is up to the court’s discretion. He also told the Town Topics he believed race played a factor in the way police treated him when he was pulled over.
In an email exchange with Planet Princeton, the court administrator in Hopewell claims Liverman was not given special treatment as an elected official and said Liverman’s lawyer called and asked if he could be added to the calendar Sept. 20.
“Attorney’s have, in the past, called last minute and asked to have their case added on to court calendars. If we do not need the officer for a matter, the attorney is always accommodated,” Court Administrator Margaret Umbro wrote. ”With the State’s requirements to dispose of cases within a 60 day guideline, we do what we can…keeping the case off the court calendar `to avoid the press from attending’, this was not the case at all. When his attorney called and asked to be placed on the calendar, the request was granted and his information was placed on the calendar.”
A Planet Princeton reporter, after hearing rumors that Liverman was going to take a plea deal that week, called the court twice that week, on Sept. 17 and Sept. 20, and was told the case was still scheduled for Oct. 9.