Ohio Rep. Wes Retherford was found guilty Wednesday of operating a vehicle while impaired, nearly two months after he was found passed out in an idling pickup truck parked in a fast-food drive-thru.
Butler County Area II Court Judge Kevin McDonough sentenced Retherford, who pleaded no contest, to 180 days in jail, with 175 days suspended. Retherford, R-Hamilton, will get credit for two days he served following his March 12 arrest, and the judge ordered him to attend a three-day alcohol intervention program.
Retherford’s driver’s license was suspended for six months, starting from the date of his arrest, but he is allowed to travel to and from work, medical appointments and family obligations concerning his children.
He is also on two years of non-reporting probation.
In court, Retherford, 33, who represents the 51st Ohio House District, asked to be judged by his past efforts in the community.
“I truly regret my actions,” he said to McDonough.
His attorney, Jeffrey Bowling, highlighted Retherford’s community involvement, being a coach for his children’s sports teams, and being a three-time elected state lawmaker.
“His past actions will indicate how he will act in the future,” said Bowling, adding the OVI arrest was out of character.
McDonough said most people learn from their actions, and hopes Retherford will do the same.
“Like I’ve said to thousands of people in the last elected year, ‘Good people make mistakes.’ It happens all the time,” he said. “Most people learn from them and I’m assuming you’ll learn from this moving forward.”
The judge also said Retherford must forfeit his conceal carry permit and his weapon.
Retherford was fined $1,075, but the judge suspended $700 of that amount.
Deputies arrested Retherford at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Liberty Twp., just hours after the annual Butler County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner. Retherford had also been at a Liberty Twp. bar after the dinner.
A 911 caller reported seeing a man in the driver’s seat of a running Chevrolet Silverado at 3:23 a.m.
“He’s not even up to where he orders,” the caller told an emergency dispatcher. “He’s just sitting there.”
According to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office, Retherford appeared to be passed out behind the wheel.
Deputies found Retherford in the truck, where his breath smelled of an alcoholic beverage, his speech was slurred and his eyes were bloodshot, according to the incident report.
A deputy stopped performing a field sobriety test on Retherford after the lawmaker “nearly fell over,” according to the incident report.
After arresting Retherford, the deputy found a loaded handgun in the center console of Retherford’s truck. The Glock 23 was in a holder with 15 rounds in the magazine and one round in the chamber, according to the report.
Retherford was charged with OVI, a misdemeanor, and improper handling of a firearm, a felony. A Butler County grand jury declined to indict Retherford on the felony weapons charge.
If Retherford would have been convicted of the felony charge, he would have been forced from the Statehouse.
Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall, who previously called for Retherford to resign, said he is “glad (Retherford) is getting needed treatment. The district has been through a lot.”