Cain pleads guilty to DWI; judge finds no connection between arrest and police negotiations

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MAYS LANDING – The deputy mayor of Hamilton Township pleaded guilty Thursday, Feb. 9, to driving while intoxicated and refusal to submit to a breath test, Atlantic County Prosecutor Ted Housel said.

The DWI trial for Township Committeemen Charles Cain, which began in October, came to a close Thursday with Cain admitting that he drank alcohol at Testa’s Good Guys Pub, which affected his ability to drive. He also admitted refusing to submit to a breath test.

Municipal Court Judge Louis Belasco sentenced Cain to a seven-month driver’s license suspension, a $306 fine and six months of an ignition interlock device on any vehicles he may drive upon completion of suspensions for refusing the breathalyzer test.

Cain was also sentenced to three months driver’s license suspension and a $256 fine for the DWI charge, in addition to other court costs, as well as completion of a 12-hour program at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center for both offenses.

Judge Belasco denied Cain’s request for a stay of the license suspension pending any appeal and ordered him to surrender his license and pay all fines and costs to Hamilton Township within the next seven days.

On Jan. 22, 2011, Cain was stopped in Hamilton Township on Clarkstown Road for driving 42 mph in a 25 mph zone and nearly striking a police vehicle driven by then Hamilton Township Police Officer Peter Burns. During the stop, Burns detected an odor of alcohol and Cain admitted to the officer that he had been drinking at Testa’s.

After Cain failed field sobriety tests, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. At the police station, Cain gave one breath sample; however, he refused to give a second breath sample, resulting in a legal refusal and the additional charge. Cain was also charged with speeding, reckless driving and careless driving.

In October 2011, Cain filed a motion asking that the stop and subsequent arrest be suppressed as evidence, alleging the arresting officers acted improperly by targeting him due to ongoing negotiations regarding police layoffs in Hamilton Township. Belasco denied that motion Jan. 19, 2012.

On Jan. 18, 2011, Hamilton Township Committee announced plans to lay off 11 police officers in addition to other township employees. Burns was not one of them; however, six days later he was informed he was being laid off, as the number of police layoffs had increased to 13. He was subsequently hired by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office as a detective.

In 2010, Burns was awarded Law Enforcement Distinguished Service Award by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for having made the highest number of drunken driving arrests in Atlantic County and the fifth highest in the state in 2009, according to a press release from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office. Burns had been working a DWI enforcement detail the night of Cain’s arrest.

Belasco rejected Cain’s argument, finding that Burns had properly stopped Cain, who Burns alleged was speeding and had swerved toward his vehicle.

Belasco concluded that Burns and Sgt. Christopher Gehring, who assisted on the stop, were both “credible and believable” and that Burns did not even know Cain, and the stop had nothing to do with his position as deputy mayor.

In ruling, Belasco found that a lookup of Cain’s tag by Sgt. Gehring earlier that night was routine police work and that Gehring did not know it was Cain’s vehicle. He also found that two cell phone calls between Burns and Gehring were personal calls, having nothing to do with Cain, who neither officer knew was at Testa’s that night.

Belasco said he was not convinced that this was some type of conspiracy to stop Cain because of his position as deputy mayor and his involvement in the ongoing budget crisis.

“No one forced him to drink, and the officers had no involvement in making him get behind the wheel. They had no influence on the route he took to get home,” the judge said, adding that the case presented by the state made it clear that there was a more direct route to his home.

Belasco heard testimony and legal arguments presented by Chief Assistant Prosecutor Diane Ruberton and defense attorney Louis Barbone on three separate occasions in October, November and December.

Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at (609) 909-7800 or see www.acpo.org and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page.

 


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