House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh said this afternoon that state Rep. Rob Briley is going to seek treatment for alcoholism after being charged with a DUI, evading arrest, as well as other charges.
Briley (D-Nashville), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and an attorney, has been charged with numerous misdemeanor offenses, as well as a felony stemming from two alleged incidents in DeKalb and Wilson County this weekend.
Naifeh (D-Covington), speaking via conference call to reporters, said Briley was battling alcoholism and he was going to help him “get back on his feet.”
“Rob has a lot of pressures on him, and I’m not at liberty to go into those, but he has a lot of pressure on him at this time,” Naifeh said. “And it just was more than he could take at this particular time. And for that, I want to do all that I can to help him.”
Naifeh said Briley also received treatment last fall, but said alcoholism often requires more than one treatment.
Naifeh appointed Briley chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of proposed DUI law changes.
Naifeh said he was not removing Briley as chairman, but he was going to let the “judicial system work out the charges.”
Per House rules, a legislator automatically loses a leadership position if a grand jury returns a felony indictment. The charge for evading arrest is either a Class E or Class D felony.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the charges against Briley. Both Tennessee Republican Party Chairwoman Robin Smith and Rep. Glen Casada (R-College Grove), the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, have called for Briley’s resignation.
“As elected officials, we are held to a higher standard,” Casada said in a statement. “As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I submit that Rep. Briley is held to an even higher standard as his committee is directly responsible for preventing this type of crime. As an attorney, he knows full well that his actions were a blatant violation of the law and were not fitting for a state representative. His district deserves better. Tennessee deserves better.”
Naifeh said the calls for Briley’s resignation were “pretty low life” and it didn’t mean “anything” to him.
All of the alleged instances occurred first in DeKalb County and then in Wilson County on Saturday.
In Wilson County, according to an arrest warrant, Briley was traveling 72 mph in a 45 mph zone in Watertown at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday.
Watertown Police Officer Ricky Lucy Jr., who was in a stationary radar position, turned on his lights in an attempt to pull Briley over.
Briley looked back and started to slow down and then sped back up, passing other vehicles, the warrant said. Lucy’s report said Briley was going more than 100 mph.
After about 10 minutes, Briley finally stopped in the middle of Sparta Pike.
According to Lucy’s arrest report, he and another officer approached Briley’s car with guns pointed at Briley.
Briley got out of the car with his hands up, but then according to Lucy’s report, went back to the car and “grabbed a blue plastic cup and finished what was in his cup.”
Briley then failed three field sobriety tests and was charged with DUI. Briley refused to take a blood or breathalyzer test, allegedly violating the state’s implied consent law.
Briley was also charged with evading arrest.
But Briley’s charges were added to after Watertown police discovered Briley had “tore the door up” on their patrol car, said Larry Bowman, the chief deputy of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department.
“He was repeatedly kicking (the door and window frame) as he was being transported to the jail,” Bowman said, reading from the warrant for the vandalism charge.
Prior to being arrested in Watertown, Briley allegedly was involved in a “hit and run” instance in DeKalb County.
In or around Dowelltown in DeKalb County, Briley’s 2005 Nissan Xterra allegedly rear-ended a pickup truck while traveling east on Highway 70, said Mike Browning, spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
Briley then immediately turned around and started driving west on Highway 70.
Briley was cited with leaving the scene, failing to report an accident and following too closely, Browning said.
After Briley was finally stopped in Watertown, Lucy of the Watertown Police Department’s report says he found a bottle of Maker’s Mark whisky as well as various prescription drugs inside the state lawmaker’s SUV.
In Lucy’s report, Briley listed taking anti-depressants as a medical reason for not being able to perform the field sobriety tests, saying they made him “dizzy.”
Briley was released on his own recognizance after posting $4,000 in bond for the initial three Wilson County charges.
Briley is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in which all proposed DUI law changes are debated.
A call to Briley’s cell phone said his voicemail box was full. His brother, Metro Councilman and former mayoral candidate David Briley, had no comment, referring calls to Rob Briley’s legislative office.
Briley’s legislative office could not be reached.
Briley has an Oct. 31 court date for the charges in Wilson County.
Check back later for updates or see Tuesday’s City Paper for more …