John Sweeney is hoping to get behind the wheel again.
The former Republican congressman is petitioning acting Saratoga County Court Judge Guy Tomlinson for a chance to reapply for his driver’s license, which was revoked for three years during his sentencing on a drunken driving charge in May 2010. The application was filed May 13 and remains pending, Tomlinson said Monday.
“It’s a formal application proposing to modify the terms and conditions of probation,” he said.
Sweeney is also asking that he be allowed to remove a device that monitors whether he’s been drinking. He was required to wear the device for the first 12 months of probation after his release from jail.
Sweeney’s application includes letters of recommendation from the Rev. Peter Young, whom he credited with helping him achieve sobriety, and from the law firm of Tully Rinckey, where he was hired as a lawyer in June. The submission also includes a newspaper article in which Sweeney touts his path to sobriety.
Sweeney’s attorney, E. Stewart Jones, indicated Sweeney would be a more valuable asset to the law firm if he’s able to drive again. Jones did not return a call for comment; attempts to contact Sweeney at his Tully Rinckey office were also unsuccessful.
Similar applications are normally ruled upon within 60 days, but there is no statutory limit for a judge to reach a decision. Both Jones and the prosecutor in the case agreed that an oral argument for Sweeney’s request was not necessary.
Sweeney, who turns 56 today, served eight years in the House of Representatives from New York’s 20th Congressional District and was regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party. President George W. Bush dubbed him “Congressman Kick-Ass” for his take-no-prisoners approach to politics in 2003 and he was later mentioned as a potential candidate to succeed then-Gov. George Pataki.
But Sweeney’s drinking began to take a toll on his public image.
He was identified in a state police blotter in connection with a December 2005 domestic violence incident at his Clifton Park home that surfaced shortly before the November 2006 election, which he lost to Kirsten Gillibrand. Sweeney and his wife Gayle accused each other of alcohol-induced domestic abuse during their divorce proceedings in 2007.
In November 2007, Sweeney was stopped by state police on the Northway. He told police he’d had four glasses of wine and was returning home to Clifton Park from the Envy Lounge on Pearl Street in Albany. A breath test determined his blood alcohol content to be 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal threshold for driving while intoxicated.
Sweeney pleaded guilty to misdemeanor DWI and was ordered to enroll in an alcohol education program, attend a victims impact panel and surrender his driver’s license for six months. He was also ordered to refrain from using alcohol while attending the alcohol classes and submit to an alcohol evaluation weekly and follow any recommendation from it.
In April 2009, Sweeney was again charged with drunken driving and spent 16 days in Saratoga County Jail after pleading guilty to the charge the following year. After his release, he was introduced to Young, the founder of Peter Young Housing, Industries & Treatment, and did his court-mandated 300 hours of community service as the organization’s attorney.
Categories: Schenectady County