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Ventura Mayor Arrested on Drunk-Driving Charge : Crime: Gregory Carson drove his car off the Ventura Freeway and into brush. He says he doesn't know whether he'll plead guilty.


One day after being arrested for drunk driving, Ventura Mayor Gregory Carson said Sunday he does not know whether he will plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge.

"I haven't been convicted yet," Carson said.

Carson, recovering at home from cuts to his head, was arrested early Saturday on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after his 1989 Isuzu Trooper rolled off the Ventura Freeway south of the West Main Street exit, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The mayor was treated at Ventura County Medical Center for his injury before being placed under arrest and transported to Ventura County Jail, where he was booked and released on his own recognizance within an hour.

No one else was injured in the single-car accident.

"I'm embarrassed by this whole thing," Carson said. "I didn't think I'd had enough to drink to be over the limit."

An off-duty Santa Barbara police officer told California Highway Patrol investigators that Carson's vehicle was "driving erratically at a high rate of speed" before it left the freeway, plowed through thick brush and rolled over, authorities said.

Two field sobriety tests were conducted on Carson. One registered .109% and the other .111%, the CHP said. A person is legally drunk in California with a blood-alcohol content of .08%. Results of a blood sample taken at the hospital will not be available for several days, a CHP spokeswoman said.

Carson said he had learned of a friend's death on Friday and had visited friends for dinner in Montecito to reminisce.

Four of them, including Carson, shared two bottles of wine at a restaurant before they returned to a friend's house, where Carson said he had another glass of wine. He was driving back to Ventura at 2:40 a.m. Saturday when the accident occurred.

The mayor told CHP officers that he "woke up as the vehicle was plowing through the bushes west of the freeway edge," according to the report. He was wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident.

"I'd been to a late-night function the night before," he said. "I was exhausted."

Carson, elected to the Ventura City Council in 1991, said he was a "social drinker" who simply made a bad decision.

"I won't drink anything and get in a car again," he said. "I'm going to make sure that I spread that message around."

Carson said he was disappointed in himself.

"I work really hard for my city, and to let that (arrest) overshadow the work I try to do is unfortunate," he said.

Carson said investigators took his driver's license but he was issued a 45-day temporary permit to drive. He is scheduled to appear in Ventura County Municipal Court on Nov. 8.

A person convicted of first-time drunk driving typically receives a fine of about $1,500 and must attend alcohol classes and group therapy, said Sheriff's Sgt. Claude Robillard.

One of the men who fished Carson's truck from the trees said he needed a four-ton truck to drag the vehicle from the brush near the Ventura RV Park.

"I think it's going to be a total loss," said Tom Simerson of Double R Towing.

The mayor is not the first Ventura city councilman to be arrested for driving under the influence.

Councilman James Monahan, who is seeking his fifth term on the council, was arrested in 1990 for drunk driving. Monahan pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five days of work release and paid a $1,255 fine.

Carson said Monahan called him on Saturday to offer condolences.

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