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Dwyer will plead guilty to operating boat under the influence

State Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. of Pasadena, who was involved in a powerboat crash last August that injured him and several others, will plead guilty Tuesday in Annapolis District Court to operating a boat while drunk — part of plea deal that his attorney said includes prosecutors not seeking a jail sentence.

"I truly regret the incident of Aug. 22 of last year," said Dwyer, 55, at a Monday news conference in Glen Burnie.

The collision of his boat with another vessel injured Dwyer — he suffered a broken foot and neck injuries — and six others, including four children, on the other boat. The crash occurred on the Magothy River near Cornfield Creek, where there's no weekday speed limit. Natural Resources police charged Dwyer with operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, reckless operation of a vessel and related violations.

Police said a toxicology report showed Dwyer's blood-alcohol level was 0.24 percent, three times the legal threshold of 0.08 percent for being under the influence.

Dwyer said he made a mistake operating the boat under the influence of alcohol, adding, "Who in this room hasn't ever made a mistake? Who in the public hasn't ever made a mistake?"

His attorney, David Fischer, said he'll seek a sentence allowing Dwyer to avoid the conviction if he successfully completes probation. Known as probation before judgment, Fischer said it is a common outcome for first-time offenders.

In exchange for the plea, other charges could be dropped, Fischer said. Acceptance of the plea and a sentence will be up to a judge. If the plea is accepted, the maximum sentence is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

The operator of the other boat, Mark "Randy" Harbin, 52, of Pasadena also is due in court Tuesday. Harbin faces three boating violation charges from the crash, including failure to avoid a collision. None of Harbin's charges are alcohol-related. He was at the helm of an 181/2-foot Bayliner with five children on board — four of them his grandchildren and a boy from his neighborhood, according to authorities.

Neither Harbin nor his lawyer could be reached Monday.

Anne Arundel prosecutors turned both cases over to a Howard County prosecutor, Claude DeVastey-Jones. T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the prosecutor's office, confirmed that "there is a plea deal in the works" for Dwyer but said he could not discuss the offer. Kirwan also declined to comment on Harbin's case.

Fischer said Dwyer had swerved his boat, named the Legislator, to the right to try to avoid a head-on collision — appropriate as part of the rules of the waterways.

Fischer said Dwyer has completed a weekend alcohol treatment program in Baltimore County followed by a 26-week program.

Dwyer, one of the General Assembly's most conservative Republicans, was elected in 2002 and is seeking re-election. He held a fundraiser over the weekend.

As a result of the crash, this year Dwyer was moved off a House committee that oversees criminal matters, including drunken driving. He was placed on the Ways and Means Committee.

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