By John Clark
A former Pennsylvania legislator was sentenced this week to a minimum of three months in prison after he was convicted for assaulting his wife and driving under the influence, according to a report from the Allentown Morning Call.
Sources say former Rep. Joseph Brennan, a Democrat from the town of Fountain Hall, was arrested in August after he reportedly punched his wife and drove away while under the influence of alcohol.
The incident forced Brennan, who won his first term in 2006, to drop his campaign for re-election. In addition, Brennan’s DUI arrest was his second in the past two years, according to sources.
Following his arrest, Brennan pleaded guilty to two charges: simple assault and drunk driving. After a request from his wife, Brennan was able to avoid a jail sentence for the assault charge, but faces a severe penalty for his second DUI arrest.
Sources note that Brennan asked his judge for home confinement, rather than a prison term, because he was scheduled to start a new position as a research analyst for the House Democratic Caucus. Surprisingly, the prosecutor in the case agreed with the proposal.
The judge, however, was not amenable to the idea, and he promptly ordered the former lawmaker to head to prison for a minimum of three months. According to sources, Brennan could ultimately serve up to 23 months for his actions.
The judge has little sympathy for Brennan’s claim that imprisonment would be a financial hardship. According to the judge, who admirably refused to give the legislator special treatment, prison is “a hardship for every defendant who stands before me.”
The common perception in the DUI cases of celebrities or political figures is that judges often give such defendants some leniency, particularly if the arrest is their first offense.
But the fact that Brennan has been arrested for drunk driving twice in the past two years, as well as the unseemly allegation that he punched and choked his wife, likely added to the judge’s frustration with Brennan’s pleas for clemency.
One can only hope that the prison sentence will help Brennan gain some control over his life. After his drunk driving arrest in 2011, the former lawmaker admitted to local reporters that he had experienced a “long and personal struggle with alcohol.”
This struggle may see some progress while Brennan in prison, although he will certainly be under some financial stress. Sources say Brennan has been placed on unpaid leave from his new job, and a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus said has status “will be reviewed” after his release.