First Posted: 11/18/2014
HARVEYS LAKE — Councilman Thomas Kehler said he “made an error in judgment” when he decided to drive after drinking alcohol earlier this month, even though it was his third DUI arrest in 24 years.
“I made an error in judgment and I deserved to be arrested,” the 62-year-old Kehler said in a phone interview Monday. “I know better, and I just thought I was local and would make it home.”
The Times Leader on Monday obtained the criminal complaint filed against Kehler with District Judge James Tupper on Nov. 14. According to the complaint:
Harveys Lake police officer Brian Gasper was getting into his patrol vehicle at the police station at about 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 9 and saw a vehicle heading north on Memorial Highway (state Route 415) and “swerving back and forth all over the roadway,” the complaint states.
Gasper said in the court papers that he followed the vehicle after it turned onto Lakeside Drive, and saw it “traveling in the middle of the road with most of the vehicle in the opposite lane of travel.” He said he conducted a traffic stop and told Kehler he could smell an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from him.
Gasper stated in the complaint that Kehler told him “I don’t do this all the time” and “I am a council member.”
Gasper continued: “At this point, I felt it would be in the best interest of the Harveys Lake Police Department to exclude itself from this incident because of the conflict of interest and asked the comm center to dispatch an outside department to my location to take over the investigation.”
Two officers from Dallas Township responded and administered field sobriety tests, which Gasper said Kehler could not complete to the officers’ satisfaction. Kehler was taken to the DUI Processing Center at Wilkes-Barre City Police Headquarters and a breath test sample registered his alcohol level at 0.155 percent, the court papers state.
An adult is considered intoxicated in Pennsylvania with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.
Kehler’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Dec. 18 before Tupper.
Kehler said the arresting officers were “very professional,” and that Gasper “had the right to call in someone else.”
Asked why he pointed out to Gasper that he was a councilman, Kehler responded: “I didn’t want him to have any problems, so I identified myself as a councilman, and he called in another department.”
Asked if the DUI arrest was his first, Kehler initially said that it was. The Times Leader later learned, however, that Kehler also was arrested for DUIs in July 1993 in Dallas Borough and in September 1990 in Wilkes-Barre.
Kehler said he didn’t acknowledge the first two DUIs when first asked because “the officer told me that they really didn’t matter after 10 years, with the law. It was a long time ago.”
A second DUI conviction within a 10-year-period carries mandatory confinement, either in jail or at home, at the discretion of the judge. The severity of sentences increase with additional DUI convictions in one 10-year period.
Kehler was not a council member at the time of his first arrest, but he was at the time of his second arrest. He said this arrest will not affect his status as a council member.
Harveys Lake Police Chief Charles Musial did not immediately return a call requesting information on police protocol for arrests related to borough officials. Council President Michelle Boice could not immediately be reached for comment.