Township Committeeman Lance Liverman has had his day in court. In an exclusive interview with Town Topics, Mr. Liverman said that on September 20 he appeared in Hopewell Township Municipal Court and pleaded guilty to charges that included “driving under the influence” (DUI), and refusing to take a breathalyzer test immediately after he was in an accident last month.
His license has been revoked for seven months, and he is paying several thousand dollars in fines.
The accident occurred around 2 a.m. on August 9 when Mr. Liverman was driving home from a dinner with friends in Philadelphia, and his car hit an 18-wheeler that was parked on the side of Interstate 95 near Scotch Road. He was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence, driving recklessly, making an unsafe lane change, and refusing to take a breathalyzer test following the accident.
After a September 11 court appearance at which no conclusion was reached, Mr. Liverman had been scheduled to appear in court for a trial on October 9. Although he planned to plead guilty on September 11, he said, the media frenzy that greeted him when he arrived at the court discouraged him from proceeding. Sympathetic Hopewell officials, including Municipal Court Judge Charles M. Ouslander, okayed a request from Mr. Liverman and his lawyer, Stephen Krazny, to appear in court on an unannounced date in order to avoid the melee.
Lest he be accused of preferential treatment, Mr. Liverman noted that this accommodation is not an unusual one. “It’s done all the time,” he said. “People said, ‘this shouldn’t be’ and felt bad for me.” As a result, his name did not appear on the docket of cases to be heard on September 20, and “nobody was there” to observe the low-key denouement.
“I admit that I had a few beers,” Mr. Liverman said of the night the accident occurred. “But I wasn’t drunk.”
While agreeing that it may have been naive of him to refuse to take a breathalyzer test, Mr. Liverman said that his decision at the time had to do with “the way I was approached. I didn’t think it would serve my best interests.” Although he “hopes that this was not the case,” the fact that Mr. Liverman is black “could have been” a factor in how things played out. “I’ve been asked that question 50 times,” he reported. Mr. Liverman said that the arresting officer reprimanded him for slouching as he sat, handcuffed, in police headquarters the evening of the accident, and refused to honor a request to lower the charges against Mr. Liverman. “‘No, I want to see him in court,’” Mr. Liverman quoted the officer as saying.
During the interview, Mr. Liverman expressed “amazement” at the outpouring of support he has received from the Princeton community in the wake of the incident. “I serve Princeton,” he commented, and along with the support of his family and Princeton Township, he has, and continues to receive, encouraging emails, cards, phone calls, and offers from area residents willing to drive for him. “I’m very blessed and very fortunate,” he observed. He also took the opportunity to apologize to the Princeton community “for this unfortunate incident. I am truly sorry for disappointing anyone,” he said, adding that “as a leader I know that my actions are always amplified.”
Perhaps one of the best outcomes of the experience, Mr. Liverman suggested, is that he has “already taught someone.” Just this past Saturday he received a phone call from a motorist who agreed to take a breathalyzer test “because he knew of my case.”
“I haven’t changed any of my views,” said Mr. Liverman, who confirmed that he will remain in the upcoming race for Princeton Council. “I’m the same guy I’ve been for 19 years.”
Mr. Liverman speaks with pride about his wife, Latonya Kilpatrick Liverman, a patent-holding doctor in the Research and Development arm of Colgate-Palmolive, and his mother, who also resides in Princeton. The Livermans’ three daughters are all in Princeton Public Schools, and include a second grader at Community Park; a seventh grader at John Witherspoon Middle School; and an 11th grader at Princeton High School. “I’m at every back-to-school night,” Mr. Liverman joked.