Perry County Judge With Anti-Drinking And Driving Message Gets Arrested After Hit & Run With COTA Bus

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UPDATED: Thursday September 4, 2014 6:32 PM

From behind the bench, to behind bars: a central Ohio judge under arrest.

Perry County Judge Dean Wilson has made a name for himself warning young people of the dangers of drinking and driving.

Now, he's the one learning a tough lesson, after police say he drove drunk and left the scene of a crash.

10TV was there in April as Perry County Judge Dean Wilson presided over an OVI trial.
This case wasn't heard in his Perry County courtroom, but at a high school, with an audience of young drivers.

Wilson started the program 11 years ago as a real-life lesson in actions and consequences.

"We've fortunately not had one alcohol-related incident in any of the schools, involving the proms, since we instituted the program,” Wilson said at the time.

The judge's message may be changing from "Don't Drink and Drive," to "Do as I say, not as I do."

Columbus Police say he was driving under the influence Sunday when he crashed into a COTA bus.

"It wasn't like he sideswiped it. It was like he hit directly into it," said Mark Williams, a passenger on the bus.

He says they were westbound on West Spring St in the Arena District when the black Mercedes hit the bus.

"It was hard, like boom,” said Williams. “And he just backed up and ran off. And we couldn't believe it. We was just stunned for a minute. The bus driver said, ‘Did somebody just hit me?’  and we're all like, ‘Yeah, and he just ran off.’"

A Columbus Police helicopter aided in the search for the driver, who was found 12 miles away, on I-70 eastbound near Brice Road.

"He responded like a regular criminal would and ran. That's it. He ran," said Williams.

After being told the alleged hit and run driver is a judge, Williams responded, “Oh wow! That’s incredible. That's amazing. I would never believe that!"

Columbus Police say Judge Wilson refused a breathalyzer and field sobriety tests.
Thursday he also refused to answer our questions.

"I understand you've got a job to do. And I appreciate that, but I have no comment. Any questions can be directed to my attorney,” he said.

Asked whether he was driving while intoxicated and why he would leave the scene of a crash, he walked away and closed an office door. 

Williams said he expects more from a judge.

“To acknowledge that they did wrong, and to own up to it and be a man," he said. "Hypocrite.. hypocrite."

Judge Wilson is charged with OVI and hit-skip, both misdemeanors.

He is due back in court September 10.

It is unclear whether Wilson’s arrest will impact his position with the court.

A spokesperson for the Ohio Supreme Court says someone would have to file a complaint either with the Disciplinary Counsel or the Bar Association.

After an investigation, the judge could face anything from a public reprimand to disbarment, although the latter is unlikely in a non-felony case.

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