Former judge pleads guilty of DWI, cocaine


Thursday, September 2, 2004 Posted: 3:44 PM EDT (1944 GMT)

BERNALILLO, New Mexico (AP) -- A former chief judge caught driving with a blood-alcohol level at twice the legal limit pleaded guilty Thursday to DWI and cocaine possession. He was sentenced to a year of probation.

"I feel embarrassed and humiliated as a result of my actions," said John Brennan, former chief judge of state district court in Albuquerque.

Retired state District Judge George Perez accepted the pleas. The cocaine possession charge will be removed from Brennan's record if he successfully completes probation. The DWI charge will remain on Brennan's record.

Perez also required Brennan to wear an electronic bracelet for two days of home confinement, attend a first-offender DWI program and undergo monthly drug tests.

Brennan, 57, a chief judge for two decades, was arrested near a DWI checkpoint on May 29. His blood-alcohol level tested at 0.169 percent -- more twice the legal limit -- and he also tested positive for cocaine, District Attorney Henry Valdez said.

A few days later he apologized, acknowledging full responsibility. In July, he resigned.

Brennan was stoic during the hearing. He apologized to his family, saying, "I think they really suffered and it hurt them." Brennan also said drugs or alcohol never affected his work on the bench.

Tim Padilla, his attorney, said his client spent 60 days in a treatment program at the Betty Ford Center in California and is undergoing follow-up with a psychiatrist.

Ralph Odenwald, chief state public defender in Albuquerque, testified on Brennan's behalf, saying he had been "utterly fair to everyone who's been in his courtroom." The plea agreement was "no sweetheart deal," he said.

"He's suffered the loss of a career, an outstanding career," and the trust of the community and of his family, Odenwald said.

Former Commission on Higher Education program director Patricia Mattioli, who was with Brennan on the night of his arrest, pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of cocaine. She also was sentenced to a year of probation, continued treatment and monthly drug testing.