Ex-Pa. lawmaker gets prison after assault, DUI

January 4, 2013 3:14:45 PM PST
A former state lawmaker was sentenced Thursday to at least three months in prison after his arrest for assaulting his wife and drunken driving.

Democratic Rep. Joseph Brennan was arrested in August after police said he punched and choked his wife at their Fountain Hill home, then drove away drunk. It was his second DUI arrest in two years.

Brennan dropped his re-election bid and pleaded guilty to simple assault and drunken driving as a second offense. He was first elected in 2006.

At the request of his wife, Brennan avoided prison on the simple assault charge. He pleaded for home confinement on the DUI charge, saying a prison term would jeopardize his new job as a research analyst with the House Democratic Caucus. Lehigh County Chief of Prosecutions Stephen Van Natten told Judge Maria L. Dantos that prosecutors were not opposed to the request.

But the judge on Thursday ordered Brennan to report to Lehigh County Prison on Monday to begin a three- to 23-month sentence, rejecting Brennan's argument that prison would pose a financial hardship on his family.

"It's a hardship for every defendant who stands before me," the judge said. "The sentence stands."

House Democratic Caucus spokesman Bill Patton said Thursday that Brennan will be placed on unpaid leave from his $72,000-a-year job, and his "status will be reviewed" once he is released from prison.

Brennan said after a 2011 drunken driving arrest that he was experiencing a "long and personal struggle with alcohol."