Mich. dad who let 9-year-old drive gets probation
DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area man caught on a gas station surveillance video boasting about his then-9-year-old daughter's driving skills was sentenced Thursday to two years of probation for having the girl drive him around because he had been drinking.
Shawn Weimer's demeanor was much different Thursday than it had been in the early morning hours of Oct. 8 in Brownstown Township when the camera caught him talking up his daughter's prowess behind the wheel of the full-size van, and declaring that she was his "designated driver."
The 39-year-old from Romulus said little in court, answering Wayne County Circuit Judge Margie R. Braxton's questions with clipped responses, and, when given the opportunity to speak, offering a brief apology for his actions that night.
Weimer pleaded guilty in December to second-degree child abuse and allowing an unlicensed minor to operate a motor vehicle. He was arrested two months earlier when police pulled over the van and found the child behind the wheel.
The girl testified in November that her father had consumed half a bottle of whiskey that night and that she had agreed to drive but felt a "little scared."
Braxton ordered Weimer to pay court costs and fees.
Afterward, Weimer stood with his lawyer, David Steingold, for a few minutes before descending an escalator out of view. He didn't speak to reporters.
In earlier comments, Weimer said he'd been thinking about how he used to drive at his family's farm and junkyard when he was his daughter's age and how he had wanted to share that experience with her. During an exchange in court Thursday, Weimer said the girl has been driving four-wheel-drive, off-road vehicles for years.
He said his daughter had been driving the van along a private road for about 45 minutes before they set off for the gas station and that it was the first time she had driven the van. Weimer's blood-alcohol level was not determined because he refused to take a test at the police station.
Weimer is allowed supervised visits with his daughter, who is now 10 years old. Steingold wants Family Court to allow Weimer to have unsupervised visits.
As part of his sentence, Weimer also must submit to alcohol testing, complete out-patient substance abuse treatment and perform 100 hours of community service. He previously said he had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
"Anybody who knows anything about Shawn Weimer — people that really know him — know what a fine, devoted father he is," Steingold said.
The defense attorney said the media attention surrounding the case may have contributed to the felony charge against his client.
"(It) was caught on video and made a worldwide sensation. I think that caused this case to be a lot more difficult and certainly put a lot more pressure on the prosecutor's office."