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Drunken driving charge against ex-FAA chief dropped

From Jim Barnett, CNN
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Thu May 10, 2012
Randy Babbitt had been charged in Fairfax City, Virginia, with driving under the influence.
Randy Babbitt had been charged in Fairfax City, Virginia, with driving under the influence.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The judge says Randy Babbitt should not have been stopped
  • He resigned as FAA administrator late last year
  • Babbitt is a former airline pilot

(CNN) -- A Virginia judge Thursday dismissed a drunken driving charge against former Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt, saying police should not have pulled him over.

Babbitt, 65, had been charged in Fairfax City with driving under the influence and failure to stay on the right side of the road last December after attending a party with friends.

He resigned in December, three days after he was arrested near his suburban Washington home.

Only 20 minutes into Thursday's trial, General District Judge Ian O'Flaherty dismissed the case after viewing dash cam police video of Babbitt making what his attorney said was a normal left turn without risk to oncoming traffic.

Attorney Peter Greenspun said the arresting Fairfax City officer had originally stated Babbitt was on the wrong side of the road. The video showed that "was absolutely wrong," Greenspun said. "There was no probable cause."

Babbitt was alone in the car and was cooperative, police said at the time.

Greenspun told the court the officer administered as many as four breath tests. The first preliminary test showed a .072% result, under the .08% legal limit. A subsequent test was above the legal limit.

"He (the officer) was not satisfied with the first test and kept going until he got a higher reading," Greenspun said.

After the dismissal, Babbitt told reporters the arresting officer was "acting in good faith" and was doing his job.

Babbitt was a "class act" by responding in that manner, his lawyer said.

Babbitt issued a statement saying, "I am thrilled the charges against me have been dismissed at trial and I have been found not guilty."

The police department previously said Babbitt failed a sobriety test, but it did not release the results of any blood-alcohol test.

Babbitt, a former airline pilot, said when he resigned that serving as FAA administrator had been "the highlight of my professional career."

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In his statement Thursday, Babbitt thanked his colleagues and friends for their support and said, "I resigned from the FAA because I was unwilling to let anything cast a shadow on the outstanding work being done every day by the men and women who work there."

Babbitt said he looks forward to returning to consulting work for the aviation industry.

CNN's Devon Sayers contributed to this report.

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