Councilman facing DUI, weapons violation, will ‘continue to serve’
Ward 7 Councilman Charles “C.J.” Donovan Jr. was arrested and charged with a DUI, a misdemeanor, and carrying a weapon while intoxicated, a felony, after an officer pulled him over early Tuesday morning.
In an e-mail to the Warwick Beacon, Donovan expressed his emotions on the issue.
“I unfortunately cannot comment in depth at this time on this situation, as it needs to go through the legal process,” he wrote. “I respect the process and course that it will need to go through and at the proper time I will be happy to comment further. I will continue to serve the people in my role as councilman while this issue is resolved. I want to thank my friends and family for their strong support during this time.”
Donovan, 43, who is serving his seventh term as a council member, was charged with refusing a breathalyzer test for alcohol, as well as additional motor vehicle violations. He is set to appear at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. for the chemical breath test refusal. A date is yet to be determined for the other offenses.
According to a police report, Officer Jamey Petit observed Donovan’s vehicle straddling lanes and going 56 miles per hour at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday on Jefferson Boulevard. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour.
Upon pulling him over, Petit noted that he “immediately detected the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from [Donovan’s] breath.” He also observed that Donovan’s speech was slurred and his eyes were “extremely bloodshot and watery.”
At that point, Petit asked Donovan for his registration and proof of insurance. Donovan provided proof of registration for the vehicle, however, his insurance card was expired. From there, Petit instructed Donovan to do a series of standardized field sobriety tests. Through the tests, Petit noted, Donovan appeared “sleepy,” “unsteady” and had difficulty maintaining his balance. Based on his performance, Petit determined Donovan was unfit to safely operate a vehicle and cuffed him, placing him in the back of the cruiser.
While there were no passengers in Donovan’s vehicle, Petit found a 9MM Ruger P95 semiautomatic handgun with two magazines on the passenger front floorboard in a black weapons case. The gun was beneath paperwork Donovan removed from his glove box when he was searching for registration paperwork.
The report said the gun was not loaded, yet “was easily assessable to [Donovan] while he was operating the vehicle. The case was not locked and the weapon did not have any safety device such as a trigger lock on it.”
Petit asked Donovan if he had a blue card for the gun and he answered, “I don’t have one on me; it may be at my house.” He told Petit he purchased the gun about six months ago in Johnston but did not name the store. Petit requested a check via the National Crime Information Center, a computerized index of criminal justice information, which “yielded negative results.”
Officer Russell Brown, who arrived on the scene as Donovan was in the middle of the field sobriety tests, ordered Petit to seize the gun as evidence. No drink containers were found in the vehicle.
Donovan, the son of former Warwick Mayor Charles J. Donovan Sr., was arrested about a mile from his home at 346 Potters Avenue and taken to the Warwick Police Department. He was released on bail shortly after.
The DUI is his first violation. Under Rhode Island law, a first offense results in the suspension of a driver’s license or privilege to operate a vehicle for six months to a year. Additionally, a fine of $200 to $600 is to be issued, along with public community service of 10 to 60 hours, as well as a course on driving while intoxicated and/or drug or alcohol treatment. Other penalties and fees may apply.
Donovan is a senior house policy and oversight specialist for the Coastal Resource Management Council, Narragansett Bay Commission, Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency and Rhode Island Water Resource Board.