RACINE — Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete was cited for drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident Friday night after striking a traffic light near his home, police reported Saturday.
Officers were called to the intersection of Melvin Avenue and North Main Street just after 10 p.m. Friday in response to a single-vehicle accident in which a car had apparently struck both a tree and traffic signal, a Racine Police Department press release states.
Responding officers located an unoccupied 2004 Volkswagen on scene. When officers arrived at the home of vehicle’s registered owner, it was discovered that Chiapete had been the operator of the vehicle at the time of the incident, the release states.
Chiapete was then arrested for operating while intoxicated-first offense — a municipal citation in Wisconsin — and taken to the Racine Police Department where he was processed for the citation. He was also cited for “duty upon striking property,” or “hit & run on/or adjacent to highway,” for leaving the scene the accident without notifying authorities, according to the release.
In an email sent to The Journal Times on Saturday morning. Chiapete stated that the accident occurred when he was driving home from a birthday party.
“I was coming home from a birthday party and had a few drinks. I did initially panic and leave the scene,” Chiapate wrote, adding that he’d exercised “extremely poor judgment.”
“I take full responsibility for my actions. I am ashamed and embarrassed,” he wrote. “I apologize to my family, to the law enforcement community and to all of the citizens in our community.
“This should not have happened and I plan to work hard to restore your faith in me.”
Attempts to reach Chiapete for further comment or questions about the incident were unsuccessful Saturday.
In a statement issued Saturday, Police Chief Art Howell stressed that the investigation into the incident “was handled in a manner consistent with similar investigations, that being with professionalism and impartiality.”
“On those occasions when it becomes necessary to conduct investigations involving public officials, members of the law enforcement community or other high-profile incidents, the integrity of the law enforcement profession is rightfully under public review,” Howell wrote. “I would like to publicly acknowledge the work performed by Racine Police officers, who, while investigating this politically sensitive matter, placed their constitutional duty above their professional relationships.”
Howell added that, along with requesting “oversight review from an external law enforcement agency,” he would “continue to monitor the facts involved in (the) case to affirm that the highest standards of professional police conduct were applied during (the) investigation.”
A first offence operating while intoxicated citation carries a fine of $801. The fine for the hit and run is $177.