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Ex-Riverside police chief pleads guilty to DUI

March 25, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Riverside's former police chief has pleaded guilty to drunken driving for crashing his city-owned car after leaving a topless club.Russell Leach's lawyer, James Teixeira, was in court Thursday to enter the guilty plea to one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. Prosecutors had agreed to drop another drunken driving charge as part of a plea agreement.

The terms of his sentence are three years of probation, 30 days of home detention monitored with an ankle bracelet and enrollment in a six-month alcohol abuse program. He must also pay some $1,700 in fines and fees.

"He's very sorry for what happened. He also wants everybody to know that he hopes that his actions have no reflection whatsoever upon the fine men and women of the Riverside Police Department," said Teixeira.

Leach, who had faced up to six months in jail, did not attend the hearing.

The former police chief was allegedly drinking at a Colton topless bar on Super Bowl Sunday before he crashed his city-owned Chrysler and drove three miles on the rims. He was pulled over by Riverside police officers just before 3 a.m. after he struck a light pole and a fire hydrant.

District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Leach was so intoxicated he did not realize the tires had disintegrated and he was driving on metal wheel rims. Leach's officers noted he had been drinking alcohol, but did not call for a field sobriety test and recommended no further action.

The California Highway Patrol was asked to conduct an investigation.

The CHP investigation showed Leach had taken several prescription drugs and drank four drinks at his home, despite clear warnings on the medications against drinking alcoholic beverages and operating a vehicle.

The investigation also showed Leach drove to the Club 215 in Colton, and drank at least seven more alcoholic drinks.

Prosecutors alleged that Leach's blood-alcohol level was an estimated 0.22 - nearly three times the legal limit.

Leach admitted to drinking at the bar, but maintained that he wasn't drunk when he crashed the car, just disoriented from the prescription medication.

Leach resigned on February 11, the same day the city of Riverside made public the initial report about the crash, citing unspecified medical reasons.

An attorney for the club said Leach was there Super Bowl Sunday, drank four scotches and ate chicken wings over the next 12 hours, but was not obviously drunk when he left at 2:15 a.m. However, an employee of the club told officers she was so concerned about Leach, she offered to call him a cab, which he refused.

Before being pulled over, prosecutors said Leach was photographed on a red-light enforcement camera, running a red light at an intersection in Riverside.

It is unclear when Leach will begin his work release program. Meanwhile, the city attorney's office is conducting an investigation into how the incident was handled.