Embattled Rhode Island state Rep. Robert Watson, who was caught in an East Haven police , pleaded not guilty today in New Haven Superior Court on DUI and drug possession charges.
Watson appeared briefly before Superior Court Judge Susan Connor Thursday morning while his lawyer, Jack O’Donnell, entered the not-guilty plea.
Judge Connor set his next pretrial appearance for Aug. 25, when Watson might choose to have a jury trial.
“I expect to deal with this in a legal manner,” Watson told reporters after leaving court, which was essentially the same thing he said at his . He declined to make any other statements.
The meeting with reporters was much less dramatic than on June 7, when reporters and TV cameramen chased Watson for a block down the street outside the stately New Haven courthouse before he stopped to answer their questions.
Police said Watson failed a sobriety test after he was stopped at a police DUI checkpoint on Foxon Road in East Haven on April 22. Police reports said Watson’s speech was slurred, officers smelled alcohol on his breath and marijuana on his clothes, and he had a small quantity of marijuana and a smoking pipe in his pocket. A lab test detected marijuana and cocaine in his urine.
However, a breathalyzer test at the scene recorded his blood alcohol level at 0.05 percent, which is 0.03 less than the legal limit of 0.08.
At his earlier court appearance, the judge granted a defense motion to preserve the urinalysis sample that was tested at the lab. That was after a test came back on June 3 showing that Watson had both marijuana and cocaine in his blood.
The arrest forced Watson, a Republican, to step down as minority leader of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
He is charged with DUI, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Since he was charged, the Connecticut Legislature downgraded possession of that much marijuana to the status of an infraction.