PAUL’S DRUNK TANK

Can­di­date was ar­rested and jailed for DUI in 2002, talks about it as turn­ing point >>

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - FRONT PAGE - By David Foster and Isaac Avilucea dfos­ter@tren­to­nian.com iav­ilucea@tren­to­nian.com

TRENTON >> The law and or­der can­di­date broke the law.

For­mer Army crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tor Paul Perez, who has re­peat­edly touted him­self as a “proven ex­ec­u­tive” and the best can­di­date in this year’s may­oral race, ac­knowl­edged in an in­ter­view with The Tren­to­nian on Thurs­day he got popped for driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence while liv­ing in Vir­ginia in 2002.

“It was the most em­bar­rass­ing mo­ment in my life, so em­bar­rass­ing that I gave up drink­ing for life,” Perez said. “Ev­ery­body in this coun­try has a mo­ment in their life when they fall. The big­gest thing is that you get back up and you ac­com­plish great things and that’s what I’m do­ing.”

Perez, who has openly ad­vo­cated for the back­ing of Trenton’s PBA Lo­cal 11, was pulled over in his BMW in Fair­fax County, Va., on June 14, 2002, ac­cord­ing to on­line records ob­tained by The Tren­to­nian and Perez’s own ac­count of the night.

Of­fi­cials at the Fair­fax County Sher­iff’s Of­fice con­firmed the ar­rest but said they couldn’t pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails of the case. The Tren­to­nian was un­able to im­me­di­ately track down a police re­port out­lin­ing the cir­cum­stances of the ar­rest.

Fair­fax County Gen­eral Dis­trict Court of­fi­cials said records are re­tained for only 10 years and then de­stroyed.

Perez’s DUI never sur­faced when he ran in 2014, though he said he has openly shared his ar­rest with cam­paign work­ers and sup­port­ers.

“I never lie about it ever,” the 2014 run­ner-up said. “I do re­mem­ber be­cause it was such a dev­as­tat­ing mo­ment for me.”

He said he was up­front with fourth-place fin­isher Dar­ren “Free­dom” Green about his DUI bust prior to re­ceiv­ing his en­dorse­ment on Wed­nes­day. Green did not re­turn a call seek­ing com­ment.

Perez was asked to ex­plain, if that was the case, why he never pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the DUI con­vic­tion un­til The Tren­to­nian asked about it.

He said it was a painful mo­ment in his life that he tried to “block out” of his mem­ory.

De­spite the dis­com­fort of it, Perez gave The Tren­to­nian his blow-by-blow ac­count. He claimed he was driv­ing in his brand new BMW when he was pulled over by the boys in blue for go­ing 62 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone in Fair­fax County.

Perez ap­par­ently per­formed shaky enough on field so­bri­ety tests that he was hooked and booked on sus­pi­cion of drunken driv­ing.

“The law at that time was a .08 and I blew a .08,” Perez claimed.

Perez was pro­cessed and placed in the “drunk tank” for four hours be­fore he got out of the slam­mer, call­ing it one of the most em­bar­rass­ing mo­ments of his life that led him to swear off al­co­hol.

A Fair­fax County Sher­iff’s Of­fice spokesman con­firmed Perez spent some time at the Adult De­ten­tion Cen­ter but he “im­me­di­ately bonded out.”

Perez said he’s been sober ever since that day he was locked up and hasn’t had a drop of al­co­hol.

“I’m proud to say that and I don’t even miss it,” he said. “And what I learned from it was that I don’t want to ever drink again be­cause I don’t want to ever jeop­ar­dize my life, my fam­ily’s life and every­thing that I’ve ac­com­plished.”

Perez called him­self “not a com­mon drinker,” de­scrib­ing his drink­ing habits of mostly throw­ing back a few cold ones dur­ing Fri­day night mu­sic ses­sions.

He and his wife ex­plained Perez’s life changed for the bet­ter once he backed away from the booze as he led a guided tour of his house.

“It was a blessing at the same time be­cause so many things changed once Paul stopped drink­ing,” Perez’s wife, Janet, said, not­ing her hubby also quit smok­ing.

“My fo­cus be­came stronger. Be­cause of my fo­cus, my career changed,” Perez said im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing his wife, adding he was able to spend more time with his fam­ily.

Perez pleaded guilty to the mis­de­meanor charge, his first and only DUI con­vic­tion, and was fined an un­spec­i­fied amount and placed on un­su­per­vised pro­ba­tion for three years.

Un­su­per­vised pro­ba­tion is less re­stric­tive than su­per­vised pro­ba­tion, which usu­ally en­tails vis­its from a pro­ba­tion of­fi­cer, ran­dom drug tests and ed­u­ca­tional or re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive classes.

When Perez, a for­mer Trenton High dropout who even­tu­ally earned a GED and held var­i­ous su­per­vi­sor po­si­tions within the fed­eral govern­ment, re­turned to New Jersey’s cap­i­tal city, he set up shop at a pop­u­lar bar to build his base.

“The Trenton So­cial is not just a bar,” Perez said of se­lect­ing the lo­ca­tion, de­spite his dry life­style. “Trenton So­cial is a restau­rant. You have chil­dren and fam­i­lies there so don’t call it a bar. It’s not like I went to the cor­ner bar and hung out with the drunks.”

Perez, who seeks to be­come the city’s first Latino mayor, will face Assem­bly­man Reed Gus­ciora (DMercer/Hun­ter­don) in the June 12 runoff elec­tion.

Gus­ciora, who would have the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the city’s first openly gay mayor, de­clined com­ment about his op­po­nent’s DWI. A search of New Jersey court records didn’t re­turn any con­vic­tions on Gus­ciora, a mu­nic­i­pal pros­e­cu­tor in Lawrence and Prince­ton.

“I’ve got a nice, clean record,” Gus­ciora said.

Perez summed up his ar­rest as a “good guy” mak­ing a mis­take.

“It was poor judge­ment on my part that I’m still pay­ing for it to­day,” the may­oral can­di­date said. “I don’t see how any of this has any rel­e­vancy in a city like Trenton where you’ve got 16,000 peo­ple who are unemployed, you’ve got peo­ple who are de­pen­dent on drugs ev­ery day and all we’re try­ing to do is up­lift peo­ple.”

TREN­TO­NIAN FILE PHOTO

Assem­bly­man Reed Gus­ciora (left) with may­oral can­di­date Paul Perez at the Trenton So­cial in 2014.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.