Vito Fossella, the Congressman for New York’s 13th District who chose not to stand for reelection after an embarrassing episode which we will describe shortly, was convicted in an Alexandria, Virginia district court yesterday of driving while under the influence. His sentence is pending.
Fossella, a Republican who has held the mainly Staten Island-based House seat since 1997, began his epic fall in the wee hours of May 1, when he was arrested for drunk driving after a Super Bowl celebration at the White House and a night of drinking at the Logan Tavern in Washington, D.C. He was bailed out by retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Laura Fay — with whom, it was subsequently revealed, the married Fossella had conducted a long-term affair and sired a three-year-old daughter.
On May 8, shortly after voting against the Neighborhood Stabilization Act — which would have granted HUD funds to shore up foreclosed properties in the early days of the housing debacle — Fossella blubbered on the House floor.
The next day, Fossella admitted to “personal failings and imperfections” for which he was “sorry.”
On May 19, Fossella announced that he would not seek another term in Congress.
Three days later, in an op-ed for the New York Post, Fossella’s fellow House Republican Pete King asked readers to “examine how the media conducted themselves during this entire matter” and to “recall the effect that 9/11 had on his district and on Vito — the wakes and funerals he attended, the families with whom he grieved and the victims for whom he continues to fight.”
This bullshit availed naught, and the Republican Party held a humorous primary for Fossella’s seat, in which the ill-spoken Dr. Jamshad “Jim” Wyne was defeated by Robert Straniere, who maintains a residence in Manhattan. Almost immediately prominent Republicans began to desert Straniere, and some even spread rumors that the candidate would accept a Manhattan judicial nomination and bail on the Congressional race. The Democrats nominated the MOR, presumably electable Michael McMahon to contend for the seat.
Meanwhile Fossella made public appearances that led to speculation that he would reverse himself and stand, somehow, for reelection. Friday’s verdict would seem to put an end to such speculation, though we note that a Re-Elect Vito Fossella site remains active.
Politico’s The Crypt sent a correspondent to Fossella’s trial, who reported that the Congressman’s lawyers tried to dispute his sobriety test on the grounds that “it started at the letter ‘D’ as opposed to the letter ‘A.'” They also argued that Fossella was able to keep “his leg in the air, during the one-legged stand test, for 20 seconds, even though he swayed during it and needed to put his arms out to maintain balance.” The judge was not persuaded, but Fossella may appeal for a jury trial.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 18, 2008