Portage County Common Pleas Judge Becky Doherty told an officer several times that she was drunk while being charged with drunken driving on Sunday, according to a body cam video taken by the Brimfield Police Department.
“I am absolutely out of my mind. I am so intoxicated,” she tells an officer after being placed in the backseat of a cruiser.
Doherty, 55, of Edinburg Township, was arrested after she drove a silver 2016 GMC Terrain belonging to an Akron woman off a snowy on-ramp to Interstate 76 East at Route 43 in Brimfield and crashed into a ditch about 9:15 p.m.
Doherty was taken to the Brimfield police station and later charged with operating a vehicle under the influence, a first-degree misdemeanor. The charges came after she refused to complete field sobriety tests and refused to take a Breathalyzer test, which also resulted in the automatic suspension of her driver’s license.
The road was snowy and icy at the time of the crash, according to the report and video. The Record-Courier obtained 10 videos from Brimfield police through a public records request Wednesday. They show Doherty and officers at the scene of the crash and at the police station, with Doherty becoming more belligerent as she interacted with officers.
When the first officer arrives, video shows Doherty in the driver’s seat of the car. The responding officer notes there is vomit on the inside of the driver’s side of the car and asks Doherty if she has been drinking. She responds that she had been drinking. No air bag deployment was visible.
After several minutes, the officer gets Doherty out of the car and tries to help her up the small hill next to the on-ramp. Doherty, unable to walk up the snowy embankment without falling, is aided by another Brimfield police officer called in to help.
Several times throughout the encounter, Doherty can be heard asking officers if they know who she is and she repeats many times that she is a judge.
“Do you know who I am?” she is heard asking at the police station.
She breaks down crying several times, telling officers that she was headed to a funeral Monday. Several times, Doherty refers to losing one of her kids.
“You have no idea how it affected my probation officer and me. I can’t keep losing these kids,” she says at one point, referring to a man’s death. Doherty runs HOPE Drug Court as part of her judicial duties and has often described that task as the best part of her week because she can help people recover.
Officers attempted to perform field sobriety tests in a garage at the station because of the weather conditions. Doherty struggled to follow directions while the officer moved his hand in front of her eyes and was unable to track his hand without moving her head. She then refused to complete the field test or take a Breathalyzer.
Doherty tells officers to call Portage County Sheriff’s Maj. Larry Limbert several times during the incident. After she insists several more times, increasingly getting louder, becoming more belligerent and refusing to sit down, the officer locks Doherty in a cell.
Officers eventually tell her that they called Limbert, but he did not pick up.
She then asks for her cellphone several times because Limbert’s number is stored there. The officer tells her that her phone is in “a puddle of vomit” in the car off the side of the road, but that she could use the office’s landline.
“Your phone is off the table right now. We don’t have access to it,” the officer says after Doherty asks for her phone again.
Officers in the video appeared to be professional and careful during their interactions with Doherty, warning her she was being recorded on body camera.
Doherty did not return messages left Tuesday and Wednesday with her assignment commissioner.
She was elected as a Common Pleas Court judge in 2015. She previously was chief of the criminal division of the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office from 2009 until she was elected to the bench, served as a solicitor for the village of Lakemore in Summit County, and was a criminal prosecutor from 1992 to 2008 in the violent crime unit of the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office.
Doherty is scheduled for an arraignment at 8:15 a.m. Friday in Portage County Municipal Court in Kent.
If Doherty enters a not-guilty plea, a special prosecutor will be appointed to hear the case, Portage Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said.
It will be up to the judge hearing the case to appoint an outside judge for the case, Vigluicci added.
Doherty is still hearing cases in Portage County Common Pleas Court and had hearings on her schedule for Monday, Tuesday and Friday.
Contact reporter Eileen McClory at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Eileen_McClory.