Benson pleads guilty in drunken driving incident

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Southfield — A Detroit City Councilman is facing up to 93 days in jail after pleading guilty Friday to a reduced charge in connection with a June drunken driving incident.

Scott Benson, a first-term councilman, entered the plea in Southfield’s 46th District Court on misdemeanor charges of operating while intoxicated and having open intoxicants in his vehicle, Southfield Assistant City Attorney Bonnie Fitch said.

Benson originally had been facing up to 180 days in jail and a license suspension on a “super drunk” charge tied to the June 29 incident. Under the plea negotiations, that count was reduced, Fitch said. Sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

Benson was arrested after authorities found him slumped behind the wheel of his city-issued 2008 Ford Crown Victoria at a traffic signal on the southbound Southfield service drive near Eight Mile.

According to a police report, Benson admitted to officers that he’d had one vodka drink before driving — and was “shocked” to learn he had not been pulled over but rather had been found sleeping behind the wheel.

The councilman went on to perform poorly on field sobriety tests conducted at the scene and refused to submit to an alcohol breath test, police said.

Police say a court-ordered search warrant for a blood sample revealed a blood-alcohol level of .244 — more than three times the state’s legal limit of .08. An open bottle of whiskey in a brown paper bag was found underneath the front passenger seat, police said.

Benson, in a written statement Friday, apologized to constituents, colleagues and his family for the “embarrassing and unwanted attention my actions have generated.”

“I take full responsibility for my actions and I will comply with the court’s findings to provide full restitution to society,” Benson wrote. “Over the past several months I have taken the appropriate actions to ensure that this never happens again and request your prayers for my future success in this endeavor. Please accept my apology while I continue to move forward with my official duties, for which the citizens of my district have elected me.”

Benson was elected in November to represent City Council District 3.