The Fayette County district attorney has handed over his son’s DUI case to the state Attorney General’s office for prosecution.
District Attorney Richard Bower Sr. sent a letter to the attorney general last week, asking them to represent the commonwealth in the case involving his son, Rich Bower Jr.
State police said Bower Jr., 29, of Connellsville, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.172% when he crossed the median on Route 119 in Dunbar Township on Aug. 7. Bower Jr. is said to have crashed head-on into a vehicle driven by Joshua Willard, 37, of Adah, who suffered minor injuries.
Bower Jr. was charged Sept. 29 with DUI highest rate because his BAC was more than twice the legal limit to drive a vehicle.
Bower Sr. had recused himself from prosecuting the case and appointed Uniontown attorney Samuel Davis as a special prosecutor.
During Bower Jr.’s preliminary hearing on Nov. 9, Davis dropped the two misdemeanor charges of driving under the influenced and filed a misdemeanor charge of recklessly endangering another person and a summary count of disregarding traffic lanes against Bower Jr.
Davis had said he thought the decision was fair and reasonable, adding that the request came from Bower Jr.’s attorney, whom Davis said provided numerous examples of similar cases that were handled like that through the Fayette County District Attorney’s office.
Bower Sr. said in the letter to the state AG’s office that he misinterpreted the statute concerning the appointment of a special prosecutor. The letter, he said, also instructed the state attorney general’s office that the DUI charge and summaries will need to be reinstated, and a preliminary hearing will need to be scheduled. The letter was dated Nov. 17, although Bower Sr. did not release it to the public until Friday.
“I misinterpreted the statute concerning the appointment of a Special Prosecutor,” Bower wrote in the letter. “That was my mistake.”
A spokesperson for Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said last week Bower Sr. should have originally requested that they handle the prosecution. The office confirmed Monday that it had received Bower Sr.’s letter and would be handling the case.
According to the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, a district attorney has the option to request the attorney general handle the prosecution of a case if there are limited resources or if a conflict of interest exists. While the act appears to allow the district attorney to make a choice on whether to ask the state to step in, a Superior Court decision in 1996 makes it more clear that it’s “improper” for any conflicted DA to make any decisions regarding the case.