The northeast Ohio congressman whose charges of public intoxication were dismissed this week by a Virginia judge blamed the incident on back problems.
“It was just a big misunderstanding and I’m glad it’s over,” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said Thursday.
Ryan, on Aug. 25, was arrested and charged with public intoxication after he was seen walking on a street in Lexington, Va. On Tuesday, a judge dismissed the charges, according to records filed with the Rockbridge/Lexington General District Court.
But the judge’s ruling didn’t satisfy Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert T. Bennett.
Because Ryan is co-chairman of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, and the Military Health and Suicide Prevention Caucus, Bennett said Ryan should disclose public records about what happened.
“As a public servant and co-chairman of a caucus that addresses alcohol and substance abuse, Tim Ryan accepts a higher standard for his own behavior. Congressman Ryan should disclose public records about what happened,” the GOP chairman said in a release.
“He said he was attending a wedding reception, but the wedding was the next ‘day’. Why are we hearing about this just now? When he says ‘we were walking’ who else is he talking about? Who was he with?
“With so many questions unanswered it will be impossible for Congressman Ryan to maintain credibility as a leader of a congressional organization that raises awareness and other concerns for people facing addiction issues. It’s time to hear from our elected official — what’s the truth?” Bennett asked.
Ryan said he was with a group the night before a staff member’s wedding and was walking back to his motel when police stopped him because he was walking unusually.
Ryan said he had thrown out his back the previous night and was contorted and bent over when police stopped him. They didn’t cite anyone else in his group, he said. “I was the one who was walking funny,” he said. He said he tried to explain his back issues to the officer but was charged nonetheless.
He said after the charges were filed, he heard from those in the community that police regularly stop people who are walking. “They know this and encourage you to drive home,” he said.
He called the incident “really bizarre” and said he put it out of his mind as he tried to get the charges dismissed. “To me it was so stupid,” he said. “I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought,” he said.
Ryan said he’s had back problems since he hurt himself playing high school football, and his back has “gotten progressively worse,” with him periodically throwing it out if he’s trying to tie his shoes or lift something heavy. He is not on medication for his back problems, he said.
That day, it was bothering him because he had been in a plane and car all day long. He said he has two degenerative disks in his lower back.
“Anybody who’s had a back problem understands this,” he said.
He said he does not feel like this is an issue that should hurt him politically.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “And the judge said I didn’t do anything wrong.”
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