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Dad who had 9-year-old drive pleads guilty


This news story was published on December 20, 2011.
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By Elisha Anderson, Detroit Free Press –

DETROIT — A father who admitted he had his 9-year-old daughter drive his van while he was intoxicated pleaded guilty Monday to a felony child-abuse charge.

Shawn Weimer, 39, of Brownstown Township, Mich., likely will receive probation when he is sentenced by Wayne County Circuit Judge Margie Braxton on Feb. 23.

He pleaded guilty to second-degree child abuse, a crime punishable by up to four years in prison, and a misdemeanor charge of allowing an unlicensed minor to operate a motor vehicle.

“He knows he made a mistake. That’s why he’s willing to take a plea to the felony in this case,” said David Steingold, Weimer’s attorney.

The deciding factor in the plea was Weimer’s desire to keep his daughter out of court, Steingold said.

The girl testified during a preliminary hearing last month that her father drank whiskey before she drove Oct. 8 in Brownstown Township. She lives with her mother but was visiting her father when police pulled her over as she drove her father’s van.

Gas station surveillance video — played across the country by news outlets — showed the girl pulling up and away from the gas station. Inside the store, Weimer could be heard telling a clerk his daughter was his designated driver.

Weimer also pleaded guilty Monday to habitual-offender fourth offense, which stems from past convictions that include receiving and concealing stolen property, unarmed robbery and felon in possession of a firearm. A misdemeanor child abuse charge in the case was dropped.

“In light of all the circumstances in the case, we thought that this was a just resolution,” Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said.

Weimer declined to comment after court, but previously told the Detroit Free Press in an interview that he is committed to sobriety. He said he is a good dad who made a bad choice.

“I plan on never drinking again in my life,” Weimer said during the interview. “I’m fully committed to sobriety and getting my daughter back into my life.”

Steingold said he will try to get Weimer supervised visitation with his daughter on Christmas.

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