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Ailing former state senator gets jail time for third DWI

June 25, 2009
OSSIPEE — Former state senator Bill Denley pled guilty in Southern Carroll County District Court on June 22 to the driving while intoxicated charge that led to his resignation last February, negotiating for three days of house arrest in lieu of jail time due to his deteriorating health.

But the terms of the plea deal were quickly under review by County Attorney Robin Gordon, who determined that under state statute, Denley was required to spend at least three days in jail.

Denley was arrested on Wakefield Road in Sanbornville on Feb. 20 and charged with driving while intoxicated. It was the third overall DWI bust for the 55-year-old Republican politician, who was previously convicted in Rochester District Court on Aug. 14, 2004, and in Dover District Court on Aug. 31, 1999. He resigned the next day.

The charge was lowered to a second offense, which Gordon explained is typical for an "accommodating" and cooperative defendant seeking a quick resolution. "He got a five-year loss of license, which was what we wanted," she said in a phone interview Wednesday morning.

On Monday, Judge Robert Varney sentenced Denley to 180 days in county jail, with 177 days suspended for one year of good behavior. Wakefield police, jail officials and Denley's attorney John Boyle negotiated for him to serve his sentence under house arrest because of a severe medical condition.

The Conway Daily Sun reported Wednesday that Denley is suffering from emphysema and awaiting a lung transplant. The plea deal was an attempt to keep taxpayers off the hook for three days of costly medical care, which the jail is legally obligated to provide to an inmate under its care.

However, Gordon concluded shortly after the hearing that New Hampshire law stipulates that someone found guilty of two DWI violations within a seven-year timeframe serve no less than three days behind bars. "The statute specifically prohibits any suspension or house arrest," she said.

Denley was placed in medical quarantine at the Carroll County House of Correction in Ossipee on Monday. Gordon said he was scheduled for release sometime on Wednesday, June 24.

In addition to jail time and a five-year license revocation, Denley was fined $900 and ordered to enroll in "an intensive course of substance abuse treatment" with a licensed alcohol treatment counselor within 30 days. Upon return of his license, a blood-alcohol ignition interlock device will be installed on his vehicle for a year.

A former state representative, Denley was elected to the N.H. Senate last November after defeating Democratic challenger Bud Martin by roughly 500 votes. His stint in Concord lasted less than two months.

In April, Republican Jeb Bradley won a special election against Martin to fill the vacant District 3 seat.

Denley has kept a low political profile since, resurfacing on June 1 at the first meeting of Concerned Residents of Wakefield (CROW) in Union.

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