Rep. Bakari Sellers arrested on DUI charge in October

Published: Feb. 7, 2013 at 3:01 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2013 at 3:01 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An investigation has found state Rep. Bakari Sellers' driver's license was suspended following a DUI charge after a University of South Carolina football game in October.

A judicial panel reinstated Sellers' driver's license Monday. Sellers refused a breath test, which earned him an automatic 6-month suspension.

Video from the traffic stop runs nearly 45 minutes, and it shows Sellers having trouble performing field sobriety tests. (NOTE: The date stamp on the video is incorrect. The traffic stop occurred on October 7. 2012)

Deputies booked Sellers into the Chester County Jail just hours after Sellers told deputies he'd been drinking at a South Carolina football game.   

"I came up on him, he switched lanes in front of me, no turn signal, then drifted back; almost hit the back end of a tractor trailer," said the Chester County deputy who performed the stop back on Oct. 7.  

Deputies pulled him over headed north on Interstate 77 just past 1 a.m. Deputies knew who he was from the start.

Sellers told deputies he was heading to his girlfriend's home in North Carolina, and that he'd been to the South Carolina-Georgia game.

DEPUTY: "You stated you had a little bit to drink? A few hours ago?"
SELLERS: "No, no. Not a few hours ago, a little while ago."
DEPUTY: "I'm just going to make sure you're alright to drive, okay?"
SELLERS: "I'm just trying to make it home. If I need to call somebody, I'll call somebody, but -- just trying to make it home."

The deputy directs sellers to the front of his car, then performs several field sobriety tests.

DEPUTY: "Can you see the tip of my pen?"
SELLERS: "Yeah, I can see the tip of your pen."
DEPUTY: "I'm going to have you follow it with your eyes and your eyes only, okay?"
SELLERS: "Okay."

The deputy's report shows he failed that test. Before the next test, Sellers explains why he may not be able to perform it.

SELLERS: "Can I get -- I'm tired. I've been out all day. I've been -- I left Waxhaw at 12 o'clock, so -- girlfriend lives in Waxhaw, that's where I'm going back."
DEPUTY: "Okay."

DEPUTY: "Arms down to your side, looking at your feet, and count each step out loud."
SELLERS: "even if I'm tired?"
DEPUTY: "yes, sir."

The deputy's report states Sellers also failed the test where the driver is asked to walk a straight line and turn.

The final test Sellers was asked to take is the one-legged stand.

SELLERS: "Can I say I'm tired?"
"Yes, sir."

The report states Sellers failed all three tests. He was immediately arrested by the deputy.

Sellers initially declined to talk with us about the DUI arrest. Instead he referred us to his attorney, Chester County Rep. Greg Delleny.

We caught up with Sellers at a Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday to question him about his charges.

"Well, I can't answer the questions about the litigation in the case," said Sellers. All I can tell you is that we're going to let this play out, we're going to take it head on, and we're not going to shrink away from any responsibilities that I have here or anywhere else, and unfortunately, that's all I can say."

In 2008, Gov. Mark Sanford signed a new DUI bill that required a 6-month license suspension for DUI suspects who refused a breath test.

Sellers was part of the House that passed that legislation, but there is no roll call votes to show how Sellers voted. He says he doesn't remember how he voted on those bills.

We also filed a Freedom of Information Act request on Sellers' 10-year driving record and found 14 traffic violations. He did not show up to court 11 times and did not pay the ticket, which led to a string of driver's license suspensions from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

"I take responsibility for those things," Sellers said. "As you see, we've gone back and addressed all those matters. I did have a poor driving record, I don't shy away from that."

Sellers' record also shows a speeding conviction in Georgia where he was driving 94 miles an hour in a 70 miles per hour zone, then didn't show for court. Georgia suspended his license.

The record shows five months later, Sellers got another Georgia speeding ticket, didn't pay it, and Georgia suspened his license for a year and a half.

North Carolina suspended Sellers' license for nearly three months in 2010 and 2011 after he didn't show for court on two speeding tickets.

Over the course of the next 4 years, Sellers' license would be suspended another 10 times because he would not show for court dates and wouldn't pay the tickets.

Sellers' driver's license is in good standing right now, and his driving record shows he's got three points against him. He is free on a $1,000 bond for the DUI charge, and he's asked for a jury trial.

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