Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker pleaded guilty Wednesday to a reduced charge of reckless driving in connection with a hit-and-run drunken-driving crash in Spokane Valley this summer.
The 63-year-old retired diplomat accepted the plea bargain Wednesday in Spokane County District Court. He had faced a drunken-driving charge following a collision with a semitruck 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. He was given two breath tests with readings of .160 and .152 percent blood alcohol content, which is twice the legal limit of .08.
“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 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.
Crocker, a native of Spokane Valley, was tapped by presidents from both sides of the political aisle 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.
Derr noted that Crocker should stop if he finds himself drinking prior to driving in the future.
“It sounds like there was a lot going on,” Derr said.