Attorney Sean Logue appeared in court on Friday alongside his client, Washington City Councilman Matthew Staniszewski, for a hearing related to the councilman’s late-August arrest for driving while intoxicated.
Logue conferred with District Judge Ethan Ward and Assistant District Attorney Cassidy Gertsner. Logue informed the court that his client is not contesting the charge. The judge sent the OVI charge on to the Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
Logue told reporters after the hearing that he expects to come to a plea agreement with the prosecutor’s office in the coming weeks. This will resolve the case. Staniszewski, age 42, is being treated as a first-time OVI offender because it has been more than ten years since his last OVI offense.
Logue said Staniszewski has already finished 31 days as an inpatient at Westmoreland County’s DreamLife Recovery addiction treatment center. He is now participating in an outpatient program and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Logue said Staniszewski is dedicated to staying clean.
The Washington Councilman is free on bail. The judge set the amount – $25,000 – in an earlier hearing.
Staniszewski was charged with a summary open container count and with driving under the influence one afternoon at the end of August. Staniszewski had parked his car in the middle of East Wheeling Street, so that it was blocking traffic, and had passed out behind the wheel. When awakened, he was glassy-eyed and slurring his words, and tried to give his credit card to the city police officer when asked to hand over his driver’s license. Opened bottles of liquor were found on the floor in the back seat. The councilman was transported to Washington Hospital, where he refused a blood test. He was belligerent with officers and with the police chief.
Staniszewski’s first drunk driving arrest was in 2004. He was arrested again in 2006 and 2007. The last time, he was fined $3,025 and served six months in the county jail, all consequences he served in 2008. He was granted work release so he could attend council meetings, AA meetings, and go to work. He has since faced public drunkenness charges, but no other OVI’s until now.
State law requires that a OVI charge received ten years or more after another one be treated as a first-time OVI. First time OVI offenders are given a chance to complete a program that often involves rehab, community service, and the installation of an ignition interlock device. Successful completion of the program is followed by charges being dismissed, and allows for expungement of the charges from the driver’s record. The goal of the program is to educate drivers with an eye to reducing the likelihood of reoffending.
Councilman Staniszewski is halfway through his current term. He was re-elected to his seat in 2017, for four years.
Attorney Logue maintains the councilman has admitted his guilt and has taken steps to get treatment and stay sober. Logue previously told reporters that his client feels terrible for what he did, that he takes full responsibility for his actions, and that he plans to do the right thing. Logue has further stated that Staniszewski has no plans to resign his seat on the council.
Since Staniszewski’s arrest, he has come under fire for his past excessive use of alcohol. A job offer was rescinded just days before he was due to assume the position, and Washington City Council has met with the city’s solicitor to determine what, if any, action should be taken against the councilman.
Staniszewski has previously attended drug and alcohol assessments and classes, in conjunction with his 2007 arrest. One of his previous arrests for OVI involved his use of marijuana. Another arrest resulted in a one-car accident. Staniszewski was slightly injured.
Staniszewski has previously pled down his charges, similar to what he is expected to do this time.
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