Probate judge plea deal nets 1-year term for 3 DUI charges

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Probate Judge Peter Mariano. Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News

WATERBURY — Probate Judge Peter Mariano was sentenced to one year in jail but served just four days for three drunken-driving charges and driving with a suspended license.

Mariano pleaded guilty to two counts of operating under the influence as a first offender and second degree reckless endangerment after Mariano’s attorney Mark Ouellette and attorney Jacqueline McMahon from the Office of the Chief’s State’s Attorney reached a disposition at Waterbury Superior Court on Monday.

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.

The state decided to substitute what was originally charged as a DUI for a reckless endangerment in the second degree, also a Class B misdemeanor. The charge which carried a one-year sentence was suspended.

The state declined to prosecute two cases of Mariano operating a vehicle under a suspended license as part of the agreement. Mariano was not under the suspension for a DUI arrest for one of the charges.

“It’s never going to happen again,” Mariano said before his case adjourned and he was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs. “It’s an awful thing that I did, and I want to be treated like anybody else for what I’ve done.”

Mariano served his four days at New Haven Correctional Center in New Haven on Whalley Avenue. He also was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine not including some fees and costs one one charge.

Naugatuck 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.

On April 28, 2021, Naugatuck police received a complaint that Mariano was sitting in his driveway on Hillside Avenue making concerning comments which prompted officers to conduct a welfare check. Mariano was not home at the time they arrived, but officers observed his vehicle driving on the roadway and he stopped his car partially into his driveway, according the court documents.

Mariano failed to perform a standardized field sobriety and was placed under arrest. Officers found multiple empty and unopened single serve bottles of wine in his vehicle. Mariano refused to submit to a breath test at the police station, court documents state.

On May 18, 2021, Naugatuck police were dispatched to D&D Liquors at 143 Bridge St. on report of a man who had fallen in the parking lot. Officers were advised on route that the man had entered a black SUV and attempted to exit the parking lot.

Responding officers approached the SUV and detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the vehicle. He was later identified as Mariano.

Officers requested Mariano perform standardized field sobriety tests. He was stumbling and required assistance to walk and failed to perform the tests to standard. Mariano was instructed on other tests and given multiple opportunities but ultimately refused to perform them, court transcripts state.

Mariano was arrested and transported to the police station where he provided two breath samples at 0.3374 and 0.3439. The state’s legal alcohol limit for driving is 0.08.

On June 1, 2021, approximately 4:30 p.m., police officers were dispatched to this Mariano’s residence on suspicious motor vehicle complaint in the driveway. Officers arrived to Mariano in the driver’s seat of his car in his garage and when they approached the car, officers detected the odor of alcohol and vomit from his breath. There were also a number of empty and full wine bottles in the car. Officers weren’t able to locate the car key either on Mariano or in the car.

Mariano admitted to drinking before their arrival and that he was way over the legal limit. He had difficulty maintaining his balance as well.

Attorney Ouellette said in court that provided Judge Frank A. Iannotti with a package of letters from various providers where Mariano has undergone treatment and counseling.

“He’s nine months sober,” Ouellette said. “He’s doing very well and we feel that the disposition that we arrived at is a fair one and my client’s willing to accept that.”

Iannotti gave some conditions including substance abuse evaluation and treatment if necessary, random urine tests and for Mariano to not operate a motor vehicle on the highways of the state of Connecticut without a valid license, insurance, and/or interlock device. Mariano will be using the interlock device for about four years according to Ouellette.

Mariano will be able to return to his role as Probate Judge after he serves his time. There will be a judicial hearing to rule on Mariano’s inactive status as an attorney but it’s not known when, Ouellette said subesquently.