By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — Probate Judge Peter E. Mariano faces a court date Monday, May 9 on three drunken-driving charges.
Police last year charged Mariano, judge of probate for Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Prospect and Middlebury, with three counts of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and driving with a suspended license. Each incident happened in a span of about a month.
Mariano, 61, a Republican from the borough, is nearing the end of his fifth, four-year term as probate judge. State Rep. Rosa C. Rebimbas, R-Naugatuck, who is not running for re-election to the Legislature, is challenging Mariano at the Republican party’s nominating convention May 18.
Mariano was arrested April 28, 2021, after Naugatuck police officers conducted a welfare check and found Mariano to be operating his car under the influence of alcohol.
He was processed and released on a $500 bond, according to the police arrest log.
On May 18, 2021, officers were dispatched to D&D Liquors parking lot in response to a medical call. When officers arrived, Mariano was driving away. Officers conducted a motor vehicle stop and determined that Mariano was intoxicated. Mariano was arrested and released on $1,500 bond, according to the arrest log.
On June 1, police officers conducted a welfare check on Mariano after a call that he was driving drunk and with a suspended license. Mariano was found to be operating his car while under the influence of alcohol.
He was arrested and released on a $5,000 bond.
Mariano said he expects to make his plea in Waterbury Superior Court on Monday. He declined to say how he will plead.
“I really hit rock bottom. I didn’t care about anything,” Mariano said. “I couldn’t work. I was very upset. I was in denial about my situation. Fortunately there was never an accident.”
“I hit rock bottom,” Mariano said. “It was really a bad situation.”
Mariano’s friends — borough attorney Ned Fitzpatrick, attorney Carlos Santos, Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess, state Rep. David K. Labriola, R-Oxford, and attorney Kevin H. McSherry — sent a letter to Judge Salvatore C. Agati at Waterbury Superior Court asking the judge to suspend Mariano’s law license.
Agati agreed, but Mariano was allowed to continue as judge of probate. Mariano was grandfathered to a time when having a law license was not a requirement of being probate judge. Probate Courts traditionally oversee decedents’ estates and trusts, but also handle a wide range of issues affecting children, the elderly, persons with intellectual disability, and individuals with psychiatric disabilities.
Mariano said he has turned the corner for the better over the last several months.
He said he went to High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, a residential treatment center for people with alcohol and drug addiction.
“It’s a very intensive treatment. You live there,” Mariano said. “They know where you are at all times. You go to classes. It’s 24-hours-a day treatment. It’s very intense. Nightly AA meetings. It’s an excellent program.”
Mariano said he initially went to the treatment facility for a month in March 2021 but was drinking when he came back which prompted his friends to issue the letter.
After his third DUI charge, he went back on June 2, 2021 and stayed 40 days. Soon after his second stay, he said his friend died which led him to drink again.
He went back to the facility from Oct. 2 to Oct. 23. He said he has been sober for eight months.
Mariano said he also has Project Courage Substance Abuse Recovery Center workers come to him a couple times a week for counseling and conducting random urine tests. His urine has been negative of alcohol since he left treatment in October.
Mariano’s driving license was suspended for about 100 days but when he eventually came back from treatment he was allowed to get an interlock device to drive. The interlock device forces a driver to breathe into the device to detect any alcohol before the car can start. He is only allowed to drive his car, he said.
Mariano attended New England School of Law. He began his legal career with the firm Edward Fitzpatrick in 1985 which eventually became Fitzpatrick, Santos, Sousa, Perugini P.C.
Fitzpatrick said Mariano asked for leave to address his alcohol issues and is currently on an inactive status.
“He’s always been a very substantial and responsible member of the firm and the community until he encountered his difficulties with sobriety,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick said his friends understand his challenges and they’re satisfied that he’s addressing them in a positive way.
“He’s come very far on his journey and it will be a lifelong effort for him as it is for others who are similarly situated,” Fitzpatrick said. “We continue to wish him well and we have confidence that he will be successful.”
Mariano said he’s taking it one day a time.
“Absolutely, every single one of them, was very very upset with me,” Mariano said of his friends who intervened. “They’ve all come back and they’re all very proud of what I’ve done.”
Mariano said he’s running on his on record of 20 years of being a good probate judge, being unopposed during that time and cross endorsed.