Prosecutors say they could not prove public intoxication charge against Mobile councilman
BAY MINETTE, Ala. (WALA) - Prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss a public intoxication charge against a Mobile City Council member for a simple reason, Baldwin County District Attorney Bob Wilters said Monday.
“We can’t prove the charge,” he told FOX10 News.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency arrested Ben Reynolds in July while he was on a friend’s boat at Boggy Point Boat Launch in Orange Beach. The criminal complaint stated that the Alabama Marine Police officer, who was in the process of arresting the friend on charges related to the drunken operation of the vessel, accused Reynolds of becoming belligerent.
Reynolds “loudly interrupted,” and ignored the officer’s order to stop, according to the police report. The officer noted a smell of alcohol, and Reynolds admitted that he had been drinking, according to court records.
But Wilters said the law sets a higher bar. His office indicated last week that it did not intend to proceed, and Baldwin County District Judge Michelle Thomason formally dismissed the charge on Monday.
Reynolds, who won election last year to a four-year term representing District 4, addressed the issue during a council meeting shortly after his arrest. He said “justice will be served” but declined to answer questions. On Monday, he again declined to talk about the matter.
“I don’t have anything to offer, really, at this point,” he told FOX10 News.
The councilman’s lawyer, Spencer Davis, also declined to comment.
The public intoxication statute requires prosecutors to prove that a person, while in a public place, is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to such a degree that he “endangers himself or another person or property, or by boisterous and offensive conduct annoys another person in his vicinity.”
Wilters said footage from a body camera worn by the officer does not support the allegations. He declined to show that video to FOX10 News, explaining that charges remain pending against the boat operator and that the footage would be used as evidence in that case. FOX10 News has asked ALEA for a copy of the video under the state’s open records law, but the agency has not responded.
But Wilters said his review of the video does not indicate that Reynolds was behaving in a rowdy, drunken manner.
“Mr. Reynolds was not a danger to himself or others,” Wilters said.
The district attorney said Reynolds did not create a public nuisance.
“He wasn’t standing on the boat screaming or hollering obscenities or something like that,” he said.
Added Wilters: “I will have to say, if Mr. Reynolds was, in fact, intoxicated beyond just having something to drink, then he was probably one of the most polite intoxicated people you’ve ever seen.”
Wilters said the operator of the boat, Jeffrey Bartlett, also was polite. Neither he nor Reynolds took a breath test.
But Wilters said there is a difference between driving the boat, as he was, and being a passenger. Bartlett is scheduled to have a bench on Wednesday on charges of boating under the influence of alcohol, operating a vessel without a license, failure to turn on the navigation lights after dark and traveling too fast in a no-wake zone.
As for Reynolds, Wilters said prosecutors ask to dismiss charges “every now and then” but that it is not common.
“Yeah, that happens,” he said. “But in a case like this, it doesn’t happen very often. Law enforcement usually gets it right. You know, 99 percent of the time, they get it right. In this case, the charge and the facts led us to believe that we cannot prove this case.”
Wilters said Reynolds got no special treatment because of his status as an elected official.
“He’s an elected official – Mobile city councilman,” he said. “They don’t give the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office any money. I don’t know Mr. Reynolds. Never met him.”
Updated at 4:08 p.m. to correct a statement that Councilman Reynolds refused to take a breath test. Authorities have said he did not take a breath test, not that he refused.
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