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DUI charges to be refiled against 124th District candidate

Published March 21. 2014 12:22PM

Schuylkill County District Attorney Christine Holman will refile charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and unsafe driving against an Orwigsburg man who is challenging state Rep. Jerry Knowles, a fellow Republican, for his 124th District seat.

She will meet with state police today to sign off on the complaint.

Efforts to reach Barton for comment were unsuccessful early Friday.

The charges, filed on March 3 by state police at Reedsville against James A. Barton, were dismissed on March 18 by District Judge James Ferrier of Orwigsburg because police did not provide sufficient evidence that Barton had consumed enough alcohol to impair his driving to send the charges to court.

Holman said Barton had refused a blood alcohol test after the crash.

Because he had refused a blood alcohol test, there were no blood alcohol content levels to consider at the preliminary hearing.

According to state law, refusal to take a blood alcohol test results in an automatic one-year license suspension.

"He will be losing his license for 12 months," Holman said.

Holman said she wants the charges refiled because, "with all due respect to District Judge Ferrier, we believe we have sufficient evidence to mount a prima facie case."

Ferrier has agreed to recuse himself from the case, and the refiled charges will be brought before a different district judge, she said.

Efforts to reach Ferrier early Friday were unsuccessful.

The matter has nothing to do with the political race, Holman, a Republican, said.

"I'm a politician as well, but when I took this job, I took an oath to do the right thing for the right reason," she said. "We are going to be putting the case forward. We just want to proceed in a fair and just manner," Holman said.

Police filed the charges after Barton crashed his SUV into a utility pole along Red Dale Road in West Brunswick Township at 11:08 p.m. Feb. 24.

In a news release, police said Barton swerved to avoid a deer, crossed the road, went up an embankment and struck a utility pole. The SUV continued on to hit a tree, then stopped on the road, blocking both lanes.

Barton, who wasn't hurt, showed signs of intoxication, troopers said.

He was charged with driving under the influence, disregarding traffic lanes, failing to drive at a safe speed and careless driving, they said.

The SUV was damaged and could not be driven.

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