Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson arrested on drunken driving charge
By Patrick George | Saturday, June 7, 2008, 08:47 AM
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A month after being charged with boating while intoxicated on Lake Travis and resisting arrest, Chicago Bears and former University of Texas running back Cedric Benson was arrested and charged with drunken driving in downtown Austin early Saturday, police said.

Austin police spokeswoman Veneza Aguinaga said Benson was driving his BMW at 5th and Colorado Streets between 3 and 4 a.m. Saturday when he was pulled over for a running a red light. After an officer had him perform a series of sobriety tests, Benson was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Aguinaga said. Benson later refused a breathalyzer and blood test, she said.

Benson was taken to the Travis County Jail. According to jail officials, he was released on bond about 9 a.m. Saturday.

Benson was in Austin for his mother’s birthday, according to his attorney, Sam Bassett. Bassett said Benson had a late dinner at Kenichi on Colorado Street with his girlfriend, and that he had two or three drinks over the course of several hours.

Bassett said Benson doesn’t believe he was intoxicated or impaired, and feels he passed the sobriety tests.

An arrest affidavit was unavailable late Saturday at the jail.

Bassett said an officer claimed a pedestrian was close to Benson’s vehicle when he went through the intersection. But Benson maintains the pedestrian stepped out into the street, and that the light was yellow when he went through, Bassett said.

“[Benson] says that he did not run a red light and, though it is possible a pedestrian may have been improperly in the roadway when he went through an intersection, he does not remember coming close to anyone,” Bassett said.

Bassett said Benson takes the charge seriously and is sorry he was out late during Bears training camp. He remains dedicated to his team and the upcoming season and planned to return to Chicago today, Bassett said.

“It’s obviously not good to be arrested so soon after [the boating incident],” Bassett said.

“There was alcohol involved, that’s all we know,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo told the Chicago Tribune on Saturday. “We are certainly going to take this seriously. Disappointment is a too often-used word when talking about Cedric. The number one lesson of every player is protect your job.”

Chicago Bears officials did not respond to numerous phone and e-mail requests for comment from the American-Statesman.

On May 3, Benson was arrested on Lake Travis on charges of boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest, both class B misdemeanors. Those cases are still pending.

Benson and a witness on his boat have said he was not drunk or aggressive and was the victim of overly aggressive officers. Officers used pepper spray on Benson during the arrest and had to carry him from shore to a vehicle for transportation to the Travis County Jail, the arrest affidavit said.

Benson was a first-round Bears draft pick in 2005 and started 11 games last season for the team. At the University of Texas, he was a four-year starter and ranks as the school’s second all-time rusher with 5,540 yards.

According to an arrest affidavit filed by the Lower Colorado River Authority officer who arrested him on May 3, Benson was combative, insulting, cocky and used profanity, but also was at times polite and cooperative.

The affidavit stated that Benson was operating a 30-foot motor boat with 12 to 15 occupants in Devil’s Cove when an LCRA officer decided to conduct a random water safety inspection. Lake authorities conduct the inspections to determine anything from whether there are enough life jackets on board to monitoring the sobriety of a water craft operator.

According to the affidavit, officer Leonard Snyder noticed that Benson showed signs of intoxication, including the strong odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes. Snyder reported that Benson failed a vision test, had slurred speech, did not complete a finger count test — in which he was asked to touch his fingers to his thumb and count — and could not recite the alphabet.

When told he would need to put on a life jacket and go ashore to complete more land-based tests, Benson “refused and at one point stood up from the position where I had him seated and suggested I could not tell him what to do,” Snyder said in the affidavit. Snyder said Benson was acting in a hostile way, and used pepper spray against the football player.

Once they arrived at a nearby marina, Benson refused to get out of the officer’s boat and had to be removed and carried to a vehicle that took him to the Travis County Jail, the affidavit said.

Bassett has said that he doesn’t believe Benson was intoxicated or aggressive to officers on that day.

“I certainly feel very confident of the case on Lake Travis, that he will be cleared,” Bassett said.

A preliminary hearing in that case is set for June 30.

Benson’s legal run-ins April 2002: Charged with marijuana possession and with being a minor in possession of alcohol stemming from a police call to a party in his hometown of Midland. Charges were dropped a month later.

October 2003: Charged with criminal trespassing after kicking in an apartment door in Austin. Benson says he was trying to recover his stolen plasma TV. Pleads no contest and is sentenced to eight days but avoids actual jail time because jail was full.

May 2008: Charged with boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest during a boat trip on Lake Travis.

June 2008: Charged with driving while intoxicated after traffic stop in downtown Austin. Charge is pending.