Senate majority leader charged with DUI

Rhode Island Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio was pulled over early Wednesday morning in Barrington and charged with driving under the influence and refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

A police report said a concerned citizen called police about a car driving erratically just after midnight.

According to the police report, Ruggerio said he was following a friend to a woman’s house and that he was coming from a benefit in Providence. He admitted to drinking earlier in the night, according to the report.

An officer said in the report that Ruggerio failed a battery of field sobriety tests and that he had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Ruggerio refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test.

Ruggerio, 63, was arraigned by justice of the peace at the Barrington police station and released on personal recognizance. He was ordered to appear in Providence District Court on April 4.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions last evening and regret how this may impact my family, my constituents, my colleagues and the Senate. I look forward to resolving this matter and continuing to serve my constituents as vigorously as I have for the past 32 years,” the lawmaker said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat, released a statement expressing support for Ruggerio, saying she is “confident that this issue will not distract him from his duties and that he will continue to be an effective leader in the state senate.”

Ruggerio was also arrested in 1990 for allegedly stealing condoms from a CVS. He was not prosecuted.

Ruggerio, a Democrat, represents Providence and North Providence. According to his Senate biography, Ruggerio was elected majority leader in November 2010. He was elected to his 14th term in the state Senate that same month.

Four other lawmakers have faced criminal charges in the past 12 months.

Former House Minority Leader Bob Watson, R-East Greenwich, was charged with drug possession and DUI in April in Connecticut, and arrested again in Rhode Island in January for marijuana possession.

Police arrested Rep. Dan Gordon, R-Portsmouth, in September 2011 after learning that he faced charges in Massachusetts of failing to stop for police and driving with a suspended license stemming from a 2008 traffic stop. Gordon agreed to pay $1,000 to resolve the evasion charge and received probation for other traffic charges.

Also in September, Rep. Leo Medina, D-Providence, was accused of pocketing proceeds from a life insurance policy on a friend’s dead daughter. Medina pleaded not guilty last week and said the case is a “big misunderstanding.”

In January, prosecutors dismissed a sexual assault case against Providence state Rep. John Carnevale after the alleged victim died of medical causes. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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