BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) - Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio, one of the most powerful politicians in Rhode Island, was arrested just after midnight on Wednesday for drunk driving, WPRI.com has confirmed.
Ruggerio, 63, was arrested for driving while under the influence and refusing to take a Breathalyzer test, the Barrington Police Department said. Police said the arrest was prompted by a 911 call at 12:09 a.m. about an erratic driver on Wampanoag Trail near Vitullo Farm.
In a brief statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Ruggerio described the events as follows: "Last evening the vehicle I was driving in Barrington was pulled over by the Barrington Police. I declined a breathalyzer test." He did not say whether he was inebriated at the time.
The North Providence Democrat continued: "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."
Ruggerio, an influential member of Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed's leadership team, was first elected to the Senate in 1984 after serving two terms in the House and is now the chamber's most senior member. He works for an arm of the Laborers International Union of North America in Providence.
"This obviously concerns me, but I am reassured by the fact that he is accepting full responsibility for his actions," Paiva Weed said in a statement. "I am 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."
The arrest report said Ruggerio stopped his car, a black Buick sedan, in the middle of the road instead of pulling over to the side and later failed a field sobriety test. Patrolman Walter Larson, the arresting officer, said Ruggerio had bloodshot, watery eyes, "heavily slurred speech," "a strong odor of consumed alcohol" on his breath and swayed from side to side.
The officer said Ruggerio told him he was following his friend to a woman's house after attending a benefit in Providence and acknowledged drinking earlier in the night. The officer identified the friend driving the second car as Frank Ciccone.
Larson described Ruggerio as "polite, cooperative and apologetic" while being booked at the police station. He was arraigned by a justice of the peace and released on $1,000 personal recognizance around 3:30 a.m. Ruggerio is scheduled to appear in District Court on April 4 and before the Traffic Tribunal on April 9.
Ruggerio, who represents Senate District 4, did not attend the Senate's session on Wednesday. He was previously arrested in 1990 for allegedly stealing condoms from a CVS/pharmacy drugstore, and is now the seventh sitting Rhode Island lawmaker to face legal trouble since 2010.
Ruggerio told The Providence Journal last month he plans to run for reelection in November. He had $16,749 in his campaign war chest as of Dec. 31. He became majority leader in 2010 after seven years as majority whip.
Copyright WPRI 12
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