Charges Dropped Against Former FAA Chief Babbitt

Dashboard cam video showed no crime committed

Thursday, May 10, 2012  |  Updated 8:22 PM EDT
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The drunken driving case against former FAA chief Bruce Babbitt was thrown out of court because the evidence didn't hold  up. News4's Julie Carey reports.

Julie Carey

The drunken driving case against former FAA chief Bruce Babbitt was thrown out of court because the evidence didn't hold up. News4's Julie Carey reports.

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FAA Chief Arrested

The nation's top aviation official was arrested on DWI charges. Police say Jerome Randy Babbit, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, was spotted driving on the wrong side of the road in Fairfax over the weekend.
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Charges have been dismissed against former FAA chief Randy Babbitt after a police dashboard cam video showed no crime was committed.

During a traffic stop in December, Babbitt, 65, registered a .07 on a breath test, which was below the legal limit. The cop then did another field breath test with another officer's equipment that registered as .08.

General District Judge Ian O'Flaherty dismissed the case before prosecutors could present evidence of Babbitt's alleged intoxication, calling the traffic stop a "hunch," the Associated Press reported.

An officer had said he saw a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the street in the 3900 block of Old Lee Highway in Fairfax. However, the video shows Babbitt was making a left turn into a parking lot and never drove the wrong way on Lee Highway, as the officer alleged.

Babbitt's lawyer, Peter Greenspun, disputed the allegation that Babbitt was intoxicated in the trial's opening statement, arguing police are not allowed to give multiple tests until they get a result they like, the AP reported.

Prosecutors opposed the dismissal of the case, arguing that the officer had a legitimate reason to pull Babbitt over because of the way in which he made the turn and because he failed to use a turn signal, they said.

Babbitt said he was glad to have the matter behind him and spoke graciously about the officer who arrested him.

“He certainly was acting in good faith,” Babbitt said of the officer. In an emailed statement, Babbitt said, “I am thrilled the charges against me have been dismissed at trial and I have been found not guilty.”

Babbitt was arrested in the city of Fairfax after attending a Dec. 3 dinner party with friends. Greenspun said Babbitt, a resident of Reston, Va., was unfamiliar with Fairfax roads. Several witnesses at the dinner party were prepared to testify that Babbitt drank two-and-a-half or three glasses of wine at the party over a period of almost four hours and that none saw any noticeable impairment.

“It is not against the law for Mr. Babbitt to have two or three drinks” at a dinner party, Greenspun said. “There was no reason for him not to get in that car.”

After his arrest, Babbitt requested and was granted a leave of absence from the FAA. He submitted his resignation to Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood a day later.

"I am unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work done 24 hours a day, seven days a week by my colleagues at the FAA," Babbitt said at the time.

Babbitt said Thursday he does not regret resigning from the FAA and that he plans to work in aviation consulting.

He became the FAA's administrator June 1, 2009. Before serving in the FAA's highest post, Babbitt flew planes for many years and is considered a veteran pilot.

Stay with News4 and NBCWashington.com for as the story develops.

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