Ex-FAA Chief's Case Dismissed

Judge dismisses charges after viewing dash cam video

By Julie Carey
|  Thursday, May 10, 2012  |  Updated 8:31 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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A left turn into a Fairfax City parking lot cost former FAA administrator Randy Babbitt his job, but today, 25 seconds of police dash cam video of the traffic maneuver cleared Babbitt of all charges.

The 65-year-old was arrested Dec. 4 and charged with drunk driving and driving the wrong way on Old Lee Highway. Babbitt resigned from his high profile post shortly after his arrest, but today, after watching the video that shows a normal left turn, Fairfax City District Court Judge Ian O'Flaherty ruled the Fairfax City police officer never had a reason to stop Babbitt. O’Flaherty dismissed all charges.

"I'm just very happy to have this behind me," Babbitt said after the hearing. "It's been a tough time with a lot of publicity and press attention, and I'm glad it's over, glad it’s been adjudicated, and I'm ready to get back to work in aviation."

Babbitt's defense attorney, Peter Greenspun, told the court that Babbitt had attended a dinner party in Fairfax City that night and had consumed between two-and-a-half and three glasses of wine. As he began driving home to Reston, Babbitt's GPS alerted him that he was going the wrong way on Old Lee Highway.  He turned left into an office parking lot, and that's when Officer Mike Morris turned on his lights and his dash cam was activated.

Once he stopped Babbitt, Morris administered a breath test that registered .07, below the legal limit. Another officer pulled up and then retested Babbitt with his equipment.  That reading hit .08.

Babbitt was charged with drunk driving and driving the wrong way on Old Lee Highway for turning at a slight angle into the parking lot.  But after seeing the video, the judge found the officer had no "reasonable suspicion" to stop Babbitt and tossed out the case.

"In this situation, there was no reason to stop him in the first place," Greenspun said. "Police can't just stop people on a hunch. That is a profile type of stop, and it's prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Greenspun also said that under Virginia law, officers can only administer one field breath test.

Neither Greenspun nor Babbitt was critical of Officer Morris.

"I don't think we want to make too much of it. Officer Morris is an experienced officer, is a credible Fairfax City police office for a lot of years,” Greenspun said. “This is a case that was strongly litigated, and Mr. Babbitt was cleared and he's ready to move forward."

Babbitt said he'll continue work in the aviation industry as a consultant. He was appointed FAA administrator by President Barack Obama in 2009 and had been an airline pilot for years. He told News4 he does not regret stepping down because he did not want his case to distract from the important work of the FAA.

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