Sweeney faces felony DWI charge

CLIFTON PARK - Former U.S. Congressman John E. Sweeney was arrested early Sunday morning by state police and charged with a felony count of driving while intoxicated, authorities said.

Troopers stationed in Clifton Park stopped Sweeney, 53, at about 3:30 a.m. on state Rte. 9 for speeding, state police said.

Suspecting Sweeney was intoxicated, they sought to administer a sobriety test, but he refused, police said.

Sweeney was then taken to the Clifton Park state police substation and booked on the DWI charge.

The felony status stems from a 2007 conviction on a misdemeanor DWI, in which Sweeney pleaded guilty and paid a $1,000 fine and had his license suspended for six months, authorities said. His blood-alcohol level was over twice the legal limit, they said.

In 2001 during his tenure as a U.S. Congressman, Sweeney drove off a road in Easton and hit a power pole - and later claimed the crash occurred because he was distracted trying to adjust a radio dial. At the time of the crash, authorities blocked public access to the crash, and Sweeney was not charged.

Popular in the region among Republicans and well-known for his economic development efforts, Sweeney served for eight years in Congress, but was unseated in 2006 by Kirsten Gillibrand, who was just recently elevated to U.S. Senator.

Prior to his service in Congress, Sweeney was the state Commissioner of Labor from 1995 to 1997 under the Pataki administration. Also, he served as executive director and chief counsel of the New York Republican Party from 1992 to 1995.

On Sunday's DWI charge, Sweeney was arraigned in Clifton Park Court by Town Justice Robert Rybak and sent to Saratoga County jail in lieu of $2,000 cash bail or $5,000 bond. Sweeney was released shortly afterwards when he posted bail, police said. He was scheduled to return in the Clifton Park town court April 16.

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