A U.S. park ranger was wrong in charging Bruce Springsteen with DWI and reckless driving at Sandy Hook, a federal magistrate ruled following a highly-attended Zoom-conferenced hearing.
Federal authorities dropped the first two charges against Springsteen due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
The 71-year-old rocker did plead guilty to a law that took effect only last year -- for drinking alcohol on federal property at Sandy Hook – and was ordered to pay a $500 fine plus $40 court costs by U.S. Magistrate Judge Anthony R. Mautone.
Asked when he could cough up the cash, Springsteen smiled shyly and said, “I think I could pay that immediately, your Honor.”
Mautone gave him a week, anyway, and told him he could pay by check, credit card or online.
“Mr. Springsteen is pleased with the outcome of today’s court appearance," his lawyer, Mitchell Ansell of Ocean County, said afterward. "We want to thank the court and will have no further comment at this time."
Springsteen, who wore a black sweater and blazer over a button-down shirt during the brief proceeding, told Mautone that he downed “two tiny shots of tequila” with fans before Park Service Officer R.L. Hayes arrested him that sunny Nov. 14 afternoon at the Gateway National Recreation Area.
Beyond that, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Baker said the government “believes it cannot sustain its burden of proof” that The Boss was over the legal drinking limit – and, as a result, wasn’t driving recklessly.
Baker said Springsteen initially refused to submit to a portable breath test at the Hook, which the judge noted isn’t required by law nor admissible in court.
Springsteen did give a breath sample after he was taken to the ranger station, the assistant U.S. attorney said.
The .02 reading that resulted is “actually low enough the defendant would be presumptively considered NOT impaired under New Jersey law,” Baker said.
The judge – who looks and sounds a bit like the late director and actor Garry Marshall -- said he agreed “totally” that prosecutors had no DWI or reckless driving case.
“The only case that’s provable by the government is the third offense, which is the closed-area charge,” said Mautone, who participated in talks between Springsteen’s lawyer and federal prosecutors leading up to Wednesday’s hearing.
Before the new law took effect last year, you could drink at Sandy Hook, the judge noted.
Mautone, in considering the penalty, said he’d seen few driver license abstracts as clean as Springsteen’s.
The judge said he found only three marks dating back to 1973, when Springsteen released his first album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.”
Two weren’t even traffic violations and the third was for using a cellphone while driving, he said.
More than 150 media members and others – including a court sketch artist and longtime Springsteen collaborator Jon Landau – joined the Zoom call before the judge blocked any new entrants at the 11 a.m. starting time.
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