Naperville Township Trustee Paul J. Santucci, who was arrested last fall in downstate Normal and charged with drunken driving, has been found not guilty of that crime.
A McLean County Circuit Court judge heard testimony in the case before dismissing the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol that had been filed Nov. 13 against Santucci, according to court records. The judge rendered his verdict Friday, at the close of a one-day bench trial.
Santucci is a 48-year-old father of three from Aurora, and for the past six years has been secretary of the Naperville Township Republican Organization’s executive board. In an interview last fall with The Sun, he denied being drunk and said he was exhausted from a schedule that had included attendance at a conference of township officials in Springfield.
The judge who decided the matter “found everything I said as truthful, and there was no case otherwise,” Santucci said Tuesday during a telephone interview. “The judge pretty much countered every point the prosecutor tried to make against me.”
“I was telling the truth all along, and it worked out the right way.”
Santucci last fall said he was driving home from the conference when he stopped his car in the parking lot of a Walmart in Normal, where he rested his eyes for a few minutes. He admitted having had “half a beer at dinner” several hours earlier.
“I was not under the influence,” Santucci said. “Basically, I was just overtired (after) burning the candle at both ends” from the prior week’s busy schedule, which he said included various charitable events, a soccer function and attending a Chicago Bears football game.
A source told The Sun last fall Santucci identified himself to the police officer as being “a state-elected official from Naperville,” and told officer it would be unwise for him to “mess with” Santucci.
Santucci, in the fall interview, vehemently denied that allegation, calling it “not remotely near any truth. I said, ‘Oh, my God, as an elected official, I’m going to be crucified for this.’”
“My mistake was, when I pulled over, it was about 11 o’clock at night” on Nov. 12, Santucci said. “I thought I would just rest my eyes, maybe go into Walmart, use the restroom, get some soda, get some caffeine.”
Santucci, after being taken to the police station, refused to take a Breathalyzer test. “I said, I just don’t feel right about this, and that I would wait for a trial with my attorney.”
Refusing to submit to a breath test is grounds for an automatic, six-month suspension of driving privileges under state law. Santucci said he was unfamiliar with that law at the time of his arrest, and “in hindsight, I should have blown the Breathalyzer.”
“I have a very clean driving record, so this has just been a very hard lesson for me,” Santucci said last fall. “I should have made a better decision at that moment, and taken the Breathalyzer.”
Santucci is a communications consultant, a licensed real estate broker and a certified soccer coach. He has served as a volunteer with or member of numerous civic organizations, including the Wheatland Athletic Association, Loaves & Fishes and the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce.