10:10, August 08 384 0 law.com

2017-08-08 10:10:04
Armstrong Teasdale Partner Who Fled Scene Pleads Guilty to DUI


Stephen Wigginton, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois who joined Armstrong Teasdale two years ago, has pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol earlier this year.

A court in Madison County, Illinois, quietly dropped two other charges against Wigginton and ordered him to pay a $1,500 fine after accepting his guilty plea on July 11. The plea, to a Class A misdemeanor, was reported on Friday by local news sources.

Wigginton, 54, joined Armstrong Teasdale in late 2015 as a St. Louis-based partner in the Am Law 200 firm’s litigation group. He was arrested in late May and charged with DUI after fleeing the scene of an accident near the St. Louis suburb of Troy, Illinois.

Police dashboard camera video and other records obtained in June by local news outlets under an Illinois Freedom of Information Act request revealed that Wigginton told a police officer that pulled him over, “You know who I am,” and when told by the officer that he did not, replied, “Well, your boss does.”

Troy Police Officer Bryan Brown, who was responding to reports of an accident on U.S. Route 40, pulled over Wigginton in his 2009 black Cadillac after noticing it smoking and missing a headlight as it drove past him. Brown wrote in a police report that Wigginton’s speech was slurred and that he smelled of alcohol. He wrote that Wigginton initially denied drinking, but then admitted that he had a “glass of vodka” while out to dinner with clients on the night of May 23.

But while taking an eastbound exit off U.S. Route 40 from Interstate 55/70 around 10 p.m. that night, police records show that Wigginton’s car slid off the road and into about 100 yards of grass, crashed through a wire fence and then into and out of a ditch. Brown then spotted Wigginton’s vehicle back on the road.

Brown’s police report states that Wigginton told him about his history as a prosecutor—for both the U.S. Department of Justice and local law enforcement bodies—and that the Armstrong Teasdale partner provided his license and insurance card after being stopped. But Wigginton was unable to complete several field sobriety tests, and Brown’s police report notes that he was “slow and lethargic,” with video showing Wigginton appearing to be unsteady on his feet.

Wigginton told Brown that he initially called for help after driving off road, but left the scene of his one-car accident after no one immediately arrived to assist him. Wigginton refused to take a breathalyzer test, leading Brown to arrest him and take the region’s former top federal prosecutor to the Troy Police Department for booking and fingerprints.

Wigginton was subsequently charged with DUI, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to reduce speed to avoid a crash and improper lighting. Madison County state’s attorney Thomas Gibbons appointed appellate lawyer David Rands to serve as special prosecutor for Wigginton’s case in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest. (Wigginton once worked part-time as a local state’s attorney.)

Wigginton initially entered a plea of not guilty before changing it on July 11 to guilty. A judge has restored a driver’s license that Wigginton stood to lose for up to a year. But Wigginton will remain on court supervision for at least year and he must attend a talk for DUI offenders.

Brian Polinske, an Edwardsville, Illinois-based lawyer who has handled local DUI cases, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the terms of Wigginton’s plea agreement sounded standard, although he also noted that the $1,500 fine levied against the Armstrong Teasdale partner was double the normal amount.

Curtis Dawson, a name partner at Edwardsville-based Lucco, Brown, Threlkeld & Dawson representing Wigginton, did not immediately return a request for comment about his client. An Armstrong Teasdale spokeswoman told The American that the firm and Wigginton would have no comment on the matter.