In 8 minutes and 32 seconds, Oscar Schreiber proved why he's no longer fit to be Saratoga County's chief public defender and why he should be fired.
It was during that amount of time, as shown on a police camera recording, that Schreiber demonstrated not only a disregard for the citizens he represents, but for the law he pledged to defend and respect.
Schreiber was arrested in March for driving while intoxicated after he crashed into a parked car, nearly ran over someone in their own driveway and knocked down a lamp post on his way.
His blood alcohol level, measured well after the crash and following his arrest in his home, was found to be 0.20 percent. That's 2-1/2 times the legal limit for drunk driving. Because of the time elapsed, it was likely higher when he was behind the wheel.
On the surface, it seems like a routine first offense misdemeanor DWI. No one was hurt. He paid a fine. He went to rehab. He does a great job organizing the public defender's office. Let it go, right?
Not so fast.
Last week, Saratoga Springs police released an 8-minute, 32-second video they shot of two city officers confronting Schreiber in his home shortly after the crash.
It was eye-opening, and not in a good way for Mr. Schreiber.
Most obvious from the video was how completely intoxicated he appeared. He could barely speak, slurring so badly there were times the officers couldn't understand him. The only way he stayed upright was by bracing himself against a wall. In moving, he staggered. This is a man who only minutes before was behind the wheel of a car.
It gets worse.
In responding to one officer's questions, Schreiber repeatedly changes his story about how he became so drunk, repeating numerous times that he only had two drinks, that he wasn't driving, that he got drunk at home and that he did not strike anything with his car — this despite being confronted with an eyewitness account and the officer's own observations of the crash scene and Schreiber's vehicle.
He couldn't even remember the name of the restaurant where he had dinner earlier in the evening.
"I was not driving while intoxicated," he told officers at one point. "I did not leave the scene of the accident," he told them at another.
During those 8 minutes and 32 seconds, he repeatedly refused a request by officers to take a field sobriety test — the same test that many of the people he represents in court are required to take upon being confronted with a DWI charge.
Perhaps most damning for his case for keeping his job as an officer of the Saratoga County court was his repeated attempts to use his influential position to try to get out of being arrested
Several times during the 8 minutes and 32 seconds, either he or his wife told officers that he was a lawyer and chief public defender. So in addition to being stone drunk to the point of falling over, he compounded his troubles by trying to use his influence to weasel out of a crime.
Is this the kind of person who should be representing the public in court? Is this the kind of behavior we expect from our public officials? Sure, many people have found themselves in his position, confronted with their own guilt and trying desperately to save their skin.
But a public defender is not an ordinary citizen. He represents not only a profession solely designated to uphold the law, but he serves in a position in which he represents others in a court of law.
How does someone who brazenly and repeatedly lies to police, then resorts to the old, "Do you know who I am?!" line to try to get out of it, continue to hold public office? How do defendants trust him? How do judges? How do other public officials who don't drive drunk and who don't defy police and who don't try to use their positions to influence a police officer turn their backs on that kind of behavior? How does the guy he almost ran over?
It doesn't matter if he's sorry. It doesn't matter if he's getting help for his problem. As a public official, he violated the public trust, and he should no longer be serving in a taxpayer-funded public position.
Some positive developments came out of that video. The first was the video itself. In all the uproar over police brutality, body and vehicle cameras were largely intended to protect the public when it was a police officer's word vs. a citizen's. The cameras were also supposed to serve as a deterrent to officers' bad behavior, the theory being that they'd be less likely to beat the tar out of someone if a camera was pointed at them.
But this video had the effect of showing officers conducting themselves in an appropriate, lawful, ethical and, frankly, impressive manner. It showed how difficult their jobs can be. And it substantiated the legal case against someone who had clearly committed a crime.
If Saratoga County officials can get through that 8 minutes and 32 seconds and still keep Schreiber on the job, then they'll be committing their own brand of crime — against the citizens they've sworn to serve.