The South Kingstown Police Department has decided not to charge state Rep. Bob Watson (R-30) of East Greenwich with driving while intoxicated, saying in a press release: “The evidence presented significant legal issues that would have made a successful prosecution unlikely.”
“It is very difficult,” said South Kingstown prosecutor Terrance Simpson Monday. “On a DUI case, there are certain things that need to be done immediately afterwards, at the scene and at the station.”
Those things — a field sobriety test, a preliminary alcohol screening test and a breathalyzer — were not done by police the night of Saturday, Jan. 21. They cannot be replicated hours later with any accurancy, Simpson said.
SK police responded to a call from a plow operator who was clearing snow at the South County Veterinary Hospital parking lot that Saturday night.
John Timpson of Narragansett, who was operating the plow, said in an interview last month that Watson pulled into the parking lot, nearly hit Timpson’s truck, then pulled into a snow bank. Watson “got out and stumbled around a lot,” Timpson said.
"I walked over to him," Timpson recalled. "He reeked of alcohol. I told him, 'It would be a good idea for you to call somebody.' I put the phone in his hand and he couldn't even call anyone.”
Timpson called the police. According to the police report, Watson was outside of his car when police arrived, but was allowed to sit in his car while the first police officer waited for a second officer to arrive. When police returned to Watson’s car, he was drinking a beer, according to a report, which also noted that he “appeared highly intoxicated.”
Capt. Jeff Allen of the South Kingstown police said two days after the arrest that the arresting officers’ actions that night were being reviewed. "DUI's are very technical in nature. Should [the officer] have put [Watson] back in his personal vehicle? These are judgment calls.... They went with the marijuana charge.”
The police review is still taking place. Prosecutor Simpson would not comment on whether or not it was typical for police to stop at one charge, not bothering to pursue other possibly obvious charges.
Watson’s arraignment last week was continued to March 1. Watson’s lawyer, Timothy Williamson, told the court that Watson was out of state at a rehabilitation facility but that he did not know which one or where. Judge Mary McCaffrey granted the continuance but told Williamson that he would need to return to court on Thursday, Feb. 9, with information on Watson’s whereabouts.
At the time, McCaffrey called Williamson’s lack of knowledge unusual. On Monday, Simpson said, “Normally, you come in with enough information on where the client is.... I expect that we will have it on Thursday.”
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