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New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger, shown here during his 2013 amotion hearing, was sentenced Feb. 3 to 12 months supervised probation, participation in a drug and alcohol assessment program and 48 hours of community service for misdemeanor charges incurred in 2013.
New Hanover County Commissioner Brian Berger was sentenced Feb. 3 on a pair of misdemeanors for his Dec. 6, 2013, charges of possession of a controlled substance and driving while impaired.
The same day, ending more than a three-year spree of court appearances, his Dec. 18, 2012, DWI charge was dismissed in a plea bargain reached with the district attorney’s office.
After the hearing, New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said Berger will not have to serve jail time under the sentencing, provided he completes 12 months supervised probation, a drug and alcohol assessment program and 48 hours of community service without violating those terms or incurring any new criminal charges.
“Today, this plea achieves the aims of protecting the community, as well as getting him the help that he needs,” David said during a press conference in the DA’s office following the sentencing.
Berger received a 120-day maximum suspended sentence; if he violates probation or other conditions of the sentencing he could go to jail for up to four months.
“We’re not going to treat Mr. Berger any differently,” David said. “If he continues to violate the law, he is going to have to go to jail.”
The drug misdemeanor charge will also be dismissed Feb. 3, 2015, if he has satisfactorily completed his year of probation.
Berger received a Level 4 DWI misdemeanor and a misdemeanor for possession of Endocet, a prescription painkiller containing oxycodone. At the time of his arrest, Berger was in possession of three prescription drugs, two of which he was legally prescribed.
The possession charge was reduced from a felony, because possession of a single dose of Endocet is only a misdemeanor offense. David said the felony charge arose from Berger’s possession of Adderall, for which he had a valid prescription.
If convicted of a felony, Berger would have been expelled from the board of commissioners pursuant to state law.
Following Berger’s failure to appear in court Jan. 23 for his Dec. 6 possession charge, district court Judge Sandra Ray had issued a warrant for his arrest.
During the next several days, David said he worked with Berger’s attorney, Buddy Allard, to reach an agreement that avoided what could have been an 18-month process of subpoenaing witnesses, awaiting blood test results and bringing in the State Bureau of Investigation to oversee the process.
In a Feb. 3 interview, Allard said the deal reached was fairly routine, once the DA’s office had agreed to dismiss the earlier DWI.
“I think the spirit of this thing was to accomplish two goals: one being public safety, and the second to create a framework in which Mr. Berger could address personal issues,” Allard said. “I think my biggest desire would be that the public and the media provide him the privacy to do that. He has been front stage and center for an awfully long time, and now that this is behind him he is committed to moving forward.”