The citizen journalist over at the Bad Government in Arkansas blog has been hard at work covering the case of Fifth Judicial Circuit Court Judge William “Bill” Pearson, who plead guilty to two misdemeanors on Monday, including DWI and reckless driving, related to a January 20 incident near Clarksville in which he led police on a short chase after blowing through a DWI checkpoint.
As seen in the police dashcam video of the incident, Pearson, driving a gray GMC pickup, came perilously close to hitting three officers manning the checkpoint, then led them on a chase of over a mile, running off the road several times. After pulling into a parking lot, Pearson appears to try to drive away again, but a Trooper in pursuit pushed the judge’s pickup with his patrol car, disabling the truck. After officers with guns draw repeatedly called for him to step out, Pearson emerged, slurring his words heavily. Asked how much he’d had to drink, Pearson told the officers “None of your business.”
Pearson was charged with four misdemeanor counts in the case, including fleeing, reckless driving, DWI and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test. Retired Judge John Langston was seated as a special judge in the case, with Little Rock attorney Jason Barrett appointed as a special prosecutor.
On Monday, Pearson plead guilty to the charges of DWI and reckless driving. The charges of fleeing and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer were dropped. He was sentenced to six months with the sentence suspended, required to pay a $700 fine and attend alcohol education classes. His driver’s license was also suspended for six months.
In a statement read by Pearson in court, the judge admitted that he was driving while drunk and accepts responsibility, saying “the shame and embarrassment is mine.” He said he believed the police cars in the road were there for a traffic stop or accident. He apologized to his family, his staff, the court, the bar, the judge in the case, the judges who covered his court while he was suspended from the bench, and the citizens of the Fifth District before saying that the incident was “an isolated lapse of judgement and did not affect my duties and performance on the bench prior to and most assuredly will not in the future.”
UPDATE: Pearson’s attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig has been in contact to point out that the Bad Government Blog utilized a photoshopped photo of him (seen at left below) which features Rosenzweig carrying a box of files which says “Drunk Judge Case.” The photo is an altered version of a photo (provided to the Times by Rosenzweig) taken during another case. Rosenzweig said that while the photoshopped picture is “funny,” if the blog is going to advocate for integrity “they should exhibit a little integrity themselves.”