Ambassador takes plea bargain in Spokane Valley crash

November 21, 2012 2:02 p.m. - Updated: 4:01 p.m.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker pleaded guilty today to a reduced charge of reckless driving in connection with a drunken driving crash in Spokane Valley this summer where he drove away from the scene.

The 63-year-old retired diplomat accepted the plea bargain this afternoon in Spokane County District Court. He had faced a drunken-driving charge following a collision with a semi-truck at a busy Spokane Valley intersection on Aug. 14.

He drove away as a witness tailed him, authorities said. No injuries were reported in the collision.

“Your honor … I’m extremely sorry for what I did,” Crocker told District Court Judge Sara Derr. “I failed in my responsibilities to my community and to myself. I can assure you, it will never happen again.”

Crocker declined comment following the hearing.

His attorney, Julie Twyford, told Derr that Crocker recently had brain surgery to treat a subdural hematoma.

“This has been an unbelievably traumatic situation for Mr. Crocker,” Twyford said. “His doctor was concerned that this situation was a direct result from what was going on with his brain.”

The attorney, however, did not deny that Crocker had been drinking before the crash. Testing showed he blew twice and got readings of .160 and .152 percent blood alcohol content, which is twice the legal limit of .08.

Crocker did not show any visible signs that he had recently undergone surgery.

“It’s clear that this is something outside the norm for this man,” Twyford said. The doctor “believes the disorientation and conduct … could be explained from the brain condition.”

Derr accepted the plea recommendation, which came from Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Heather Elder.

As part of the sentence, Crocker’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days and he must pay a $1,000 fine.

Elder said the deal was pretty standard for someone of Crocker’s age with an otherwise clean criminal record.

“At this point, it’s pretty appropriate punishment for this crime,” Elder said.

She noted that Crocker’s deal also included 24 months of probation. If Crocker has a second violation during the next two years, Derr could impose nearly a year in jail.

Elder said Crocker has already paid for the damage he caused the truck in the crash. But Derr left open the issue of restitution for 180 days to make sure no other claims come forward.

Derr noted that Crocker he should stop if he finds himself drinking prior to driving in the future.

“It sounds like there was a lot going on,” Derr said.

Crocker, a native of Spokane Valley, was tapped by presidents from both sides of the political spectrum for his Middle East expertise.

He retired from the U.S. State Department in July, citing health reasons.

His departure from Afghanistan came during a time of transition for U.S. forces, which are preparing to withdraw from the country by 2014. Crocker also had overseen reconstruction of war-torn Iraq.

(This is a developing news story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.)

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