N.S. premier deflects questions on drunk driving charges he faced years ago, but court files give better picture

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As Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin continues to deflect questions related to previous drunk driving charges he disclosed earlier this week, court documents provide insight into what happened in 2005 when he was charged with impaired driving.

Rankin confirmed publically for the first time Monday he had been convicted of impaired driving in 2003 when he was 20 years old, and he also revealed he faced impaired driving charges in 2005 but those were eventually overturned.

Since then, the 38-year-old premier has refused to answer questions about whether he had been drinking or was drunk on July 25, 2005, the date of his second impaired driving charge.

In the first case, Rankin was convicted on Sept. 5, 2003, of driving with a blood-alcohol content in excess of 0.08. He was fined $1,200 and banned from driving for a year.

In 2005, he was again charged with driving over the legal blood-alcohol limit and he faced a separate impaired-driving charge. He was found guilty on the impaired driving charge and was sentenced to 14 days in weekend custody and banned from driving for two years.

But the conviction was overturned on appeal, and a new trial was ordered on Jan. 9, 2007. The charge was dismissed on April 19, 2007, when the Crown offered no evidence to support its case.

VEHICLE BARREL ROLLED

Court records provide a better picture of what happened on the morning of July 25, 2005.

In a 2006 trial, witness James Pentecost, a self-employed construction worker, said he was driving along Kearney Lake Road in Bedford around 6 a.m. when he noticed an oncoming white Subaru heading into his lane.

The Subaru cut hard to the right then started to barrel roll before landing in a ditch, Pentecost testified.

Witnessing smoke coming from the vehicle, Pentecost said he called 911.

During the call, the passenger door of the crashed Subaru opened and a man crawled out.

Pentecost said he went over to see if the man was OK, but he appeared "groggy" and "disoriented."

According to the court documents, Pentecost said at one point the driver said he was in trouble and suggested that Pentecost might be able to give him a ride to work.

Instead, the witness offered his phone so the driver could call his boss, court documents show.

Pentecost testified he could smell alcohol on the man’s breath.

The driver said he saw a deer in the road, according to Pentecost. But the witness said he did not see a deer.

OFFICER ALSO SMELLED ALCOHOL

The court documents go on to show that Const. Bridgette Dunlap was dispatched to the 911 call on Kearney Lake Road on July 25, 2005. Upon arrival, she said she witnessed a vehicle had gone off the road, flipped and was in the ditch facing the wrong way.

Dunlap said an ambulance was already treating the driver when she arrived at the scene.

Dunlap testified that Rankin appeared "thick tongued" and "was slurring at times."

She said she could also smell alcohol and noticed a bar stamp on his right hand.

According to the documents, Dunlap testified that Rankin was given two breathalyzer tests, where his results showed 0.115 and the second 0.15, nearly double the legal limit.

CALLS TO DISCLOSE CRIMINAL RECORDS OF ALL CANDIDATES

With speculation intensifying about an imminent election call, Premier Rankin again apologized for his earlier actions on Thursday and insisted he has become a different person, having learned important lessons about the "dire impact of selfish decisions."

When asked if other members of his caucus had criminal records, the Liberal premier said he was not aware of any.

He also said he would consider publicly disclosing a list of candidates and caucus members with criminal records -- as the parties in Saskatchewan did last year -- but he did not make a firm commitment.

As for his current relationship with alcohol, Rankin said that he still enjoys drinking "a beer or two (and) going out to a pub," but he stressed that he doesn't abuse alcohol -- though he admitted he drank too much when he was in his early 20s.

With files from The Canadian Press.