Bill Torpy at Large: Kids, a .45 and a high-speed DUI


State Patrol video of Taylor traffic stop

How does one begin to untangle state Rep. Tom Taylor’s DUI arrest?

As drunk driving cases go, this one has so many layers to peel back.

First thing, his level of intoxication was off the charts. Literally. According to his drivers license, Taylor is 185 pounds, which means a man his size drinking 10 beers or 10 1.25-ounce vodkas in an hour (one hour!) would register a .21 percent BAC.

Taylor blew a .225, a measurement not on the blood-alcohol concentration charts used by some to calibrate how much drinking they can get away with before risking handcuffs. A .08 BAC level is the legal limit, or four beers in an hour for a 180-pound man. (Your body processes a drink per hour, so .08 would be five drinks in two hours, six in three, etc.)

That it was 2:49 on a Thursday afternoon during spring break indicates this was not an over-social lubrication, not an “I had some wine with dinner.”

This was the equivalent of 11 or 12 drinks in an hour or even more over a longer period. With kids. With an empty water bottle smelling of booze. This is problem drinking.

That he was driving 27 mph over the 45 mph speed limit (72 mph, to save you the math) is not unremarkable. Being lead-footed is a state tradition. But hightailing like that with four teen-aged exchange students AND blowing a .225 is downright terrifying.

Oh, yeah, he was packing, which is his right, of course. He had a Glock 36, a .45-caliber weapon with substantial stopping power. Add together a 36 and a .225 and what do you have? The wrong guy on the road to flip off.

Oddly enough, that’s legal. Really. A lawyer for the gun-rights group Georgia Carry told my colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin it’s not against state law to get knee-crawling drunk with a pistol dangling from your side. It’s only a crime when you go drunk shootin’ — an SUI violation, if you will.

Taylor’s arrest in Rabun County in North Georgia may have saved a life — his, another motorist’s or those of the four foreign exchange passengers who will now carry home a strange, sad tale of life in the U.S.

Taylor and his wife, who have hosted such students for years, were taking those four youths and three others (in her vehicle) fishing at Lake Burton, about 10 miles away. He was following her vehicle, fell behind and goosed the gas to catch up when he was clocked.

The arrest became public a week later, prompting Taylor to release a statement: “I profoundly regret this serious mistake. There’s no one to blame but me, and I greatly appreciate the professionalism of the officers involved. This was my first run-in with the law in my life, and it will also be my last.”

There are a lot of preeners, egotists and even loons in the state legislature. Taylor isn’t one of them.

Taylor is a retired naval officer who was one of the founders of the city of Dunwoody (incorporated 2008). The Republican legislator is currently running in next month’s primary for his fourth term and is refusing to step down.

“He’s going to run,” said his spokesman, Brian Robinson, a Republican operative called in to try to save Taylor’s political hide. “He has quite literally devoted his life to public service and is not going to stop now. He’ll face the same consequences anyone else will.”

On Friday there was some postulating that the qualifying period for candidates to run for office can be reopened (it closed a month ago) if an incumbent steps down.

There was consternation in Republican circles because Taylor’s primary opponent, Tom Owens, is a well-known, self-appointed, in-your-face, conspiracy-minded, immigrant-fearing fringe candidate. To put it mildly.

The prospect of Rep. Tom Owens (R-Dunwoody) heading to the Legislature has GOP and Dunwoody politicos guzzling Maalox by the pint. Democrats are in hiding in Dunwoody.

I called Owens and he was not to be found, perhaps hoping Taylor’s mugshot on the newscasts could do more for him than anything he might say.

Bob Lundsten, who’s been around Dunwoody politics for years, said, “I can’t see how Tom can step down because if he does, Tom Owens wins by default.”

Lundsten corrected himself, adding he doesn’t want Taylor to continue just to keep Owens out. “I think Tom Taylor should stay in based on his record,” he said. “This is a very bad mistake. He should have a chance to pay his penance and continue to serve. This is a very severe wake-up call.”

I talked with DUI lawyer Ray Giudice, who said, “If this fellow came to me, I’d say, ‘Start your community service, go to DUI school, go to AA meetings, maybe three a week. Admit you’re an alcoholic.’ “

Giudice said the BAC suggests it was either an all-night drunk or an all-morning drunk. Neither scenario is good.

One thing missing in Taylor’s statements is an admission of a serious problem and a vow that he will do something about it. I get that. There’s terrible shame and he’s a tough, proud guy.

But if he doesn’t own the whole thing, then Tom Owens is waiting to represent you.


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