PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - State Rep. Robert Watson allegedly swore at police officers and had an open bottle of beer in his hands when he was charged with possession of marijuana, according to a police report obtained by WPRI.com.
Watson, 51, was arrested early Sunday in South Kingstown after police said a plow driver alerted them to a vehicle driving erratically. The former House minority leader, who was first elected in 1992, is awaiting trial in Connecticut over a previous drug-related arrest.
Watson, R-East Greenwich, allegedly had a pipe "with marijuana residue," an open can of Natural Ice beer and two bottles of Corona in his car when police arrested him early Sunday morning, according to a police report obtained by WPRI.com. Officers said they also "found a clear sandwich bag containing a small amount of green leafy substance" on the driver's seat.
"Do you know who I am? I'm the East Greenwich rep," Watson allegedly told the officers, who said he "slurred his words and stumbled while exiting the vehicle." The officers allege Watson told them: "[Expletive] you, whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever, [expletive] you," and later said: "Shut up! You got your guy!"
Kevin Turner, described in the report as a friend of Watson's, came to the South Kingstown Police Department headquarters to give the lawmaker a ride home. A missing Michelin tire from Watson's car was allegedly found the next morning at the intersection of Towner Hill Road and Saugatucket Road.
Watson hasn't lost the support of the Rhode Island Republican Party's leader despite getting arrested over the weekend for allegedly driving with a marijuana pipe and an open bottle of beer in his car.
In an odd twist, considering marijuana is part of the case, the police report says Watson was released at 4:20 a.m.
Asked whether he will call on Watson to resign his seat in light of his legal troubles, Rhode Island Republican Party Chairman Mark Zaccaria told WPRI.com: "No. Certainly not." He said he was "heartened" to learn Watson has checked himself into a rehabilitation center.
"He can decide whether or not he thinks he needs to resign if he thinks he can't fulfill his duties that the people of East Greenwich have asked him to perform," Zaccaria said.
State Rep. Brian Newberry, who replaced Watson as minority leader after his previous arrest, said the East Greenwich lawmaker has not spoken to him since then and no longer attends gatherings of the House Republican caucus, although he technically remains a member.
Newberry called the question of whether Watson should resign "something between him and his constituents. Other House members this year have been accused of rape, of fraud, of things more heinous, and I don't see a lot of people clamoring for their resignation."
House Speaker Gordon Fox did not respond to a request for comment on Watson's arrest.
Watson, one of only 10 Republicans in the 75-member Rhode Island House, hasn't said whether he will seek re-election this fall and had $5,167 in his campaign war chest as of Sept. 30. Democrat Mark Schwager, who is running for the seat, has $12,195, more than twice as much as Watson.
Schwager declined to comment on whether Watson should resign. "Currently the situation with Rep. Watson is a legal matter and he is entitled to due process," Schwager told WPRI.com in an email. "How this will affect the political realm is presently unclear."
"Obviously, if he decides to seek and discharge his duties and chooses to stay, I have no authority over him," Zaccaria said. "I'm a friend and I hope I will advise him. The fact is, ultimately, it's the voters of East Greenwich that will make the decision as to what his future is. That's a question we all face in every election."
Newberry said he could understand why voters might be dismayed to see another example of a state legislator in legal trouble. "Certainly, the fact that four members of the House have been arrested in the last nine months does not reflect well on the House," he said.
"On the other hand, although it's an institutional body, it is a group made up 75 individual people, Newberry said. "I think most people can distinguish between their own individual representative and some of the, shall we say, bad apples. ... That's why we have elections every two years."
Target 12 Investigator Tim White contributed to this report.
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