Springsteen ‘Visibly Swaying’ Before Drunken-Driving Arrest, Police Say


The park ranger who arrested Bruce Springsteen was on foot patrol when he said he watched the rock icon drink a shot of Patron tequila.

He stopped Mr. Springsteen not far from the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in a national park on the northern coast of New Jersey, according to a report filed after the musician’s Nov. 14 arrest.

“Springsteen claimed that he had two shots of tequila in the last 20 minutes,” the officer, identified as R.L. Hayes, wrote. The musician, he added, smelled “strongly of alcohol” and had “glassy eyes.”

The National Park Service ranger reported conducting a series of field sobriety tests. During them, Mr. Springsteen was “visibly swaying back and forth,” Ranger Hayes wrote, and took 45 steps during a walk-and-turn test rather than the 18 he’d been instructed to take.

Mr. Springsteen, 71, also “refused to provide a sample on the preliminary breath test,” the report states.

That’s where it ends.

There is no mention of Mr. Springsteen’s blood-alcohol level. Two people close to Mr. Springsteen who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly said that it was 0.02 percent, well below New Jersey’s 0.08 percent legal limit.

Mr. Springsteen, who was riding a Triumph motorcycle, was charged with drunken driving, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area. The Park Service has so far refused to release the full arrest report, and has not responded to requests for more information about Mr. Springsteen’s blood-alcohol level.

It was not clear how long after his encounter with the ranger the test was conducted.

Ranger Hayes’s report — a “statement of probable cause” — was included in federal court documents released Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Springsteen’s arrest was not revealed until Wednesday, days after he appeared in his first commercial ever — driving a Jeep, in a Super Bowl ad that by Sunday night was the second-most-watched game-day spot on YouTube.

Mr. Springsteen’s lawyer, Mitchell J. Ansell, could not be immediately reached for comment. The musician has not addressed the charges publicly. Mr. Springsteen’s first court appearance will be done by videoconference, likely toward the end of February, officials with the U.S. attorneys office have said.

On Wednesday, Jeep removed the ad from its social media sites.

“Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever,” a spokeswoman for Jeep, Diane Morgan, said in a statement. “As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.”

As of Thursday night, Mr. Springsteen had not removed video of the ad, or the script he recited calling for a divided country to reunite, from his Instagram page.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a national advocacy organization, condemned the Park Service’s delay in disclosing Mr. Springsteen’s arrest.

“The fact that this arrest was not revealed by authorities in New Jersey until after Springsteen’s appearance driving a Jeep in a high-priced Super Bowl commercial is infuriating,” the group’s president, Alex Otte, said in a statement Wednesday.

“Victims and families deserve for every drunk-driving offense to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law as a violent, 100 percent preventable crime every time. No excuses, no exceptions.”

Even if a blood-alcohol level is below the legal limit, it is not uncommon for a person to be charged with drunken driving based an officer’s observation during a three-part sobriety test, according to Carmine R. Villani, a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer with 30 years of experience with D.W.I. cases.

“Everything is done as a totality,” said Mr. Villani, who is not involved in Mr. Springsteen’s case. “He maybe had alcohol on his breath. Then he doesn’t maybe pass every aspect of the test. It’s designed to kind of mess people up. It’s a divided attention test. It’s a stressful event, and often people don’t do well on them.”

But if the blood-alcohol level is ultimately found to be well below 0.08 percent, the cases are often easily resolved, Mr. Villani said.

“With a .02 it shouldn’t move the heart — you wouldn’t be nervous,” he said. “On an .02 the science just isn’t there. Someone is just not impaired.”

Mr. Springsteen was arrested just after 4 p.m., on a sunny 54-degree Saturday, in one of his favorite haunts — Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, a sprawling park about 18 miles from his home in Colts Neck, N.J. Areas of the scenic waterfront area, filled with abandoned military structures and the country’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse, have provided the backdrop for one of Mr. Springsteen’s music videos, an album cover and a short film.

Mr. Springsteen’s latest album, “Letter to You,” had been released three weeks earlier and was drawing rave reviews. The Republican president he had urged voters to vanquish had just lost re-election.

He had stopped, as he often does, to chat with fans, one of the people close to Mr. Springsteen said.

After drinking a shot of tequila, he climbed back on his motorcycle and started the engine, Ranger Hayes wrote. “The Patron bottle that the shot was poured out of was completely empty (750 ml.),” the officer wrote.

Officials with the Park Service have not responded to calls, emails or public records requests for additional information about Mr. Springsteen’s arrest, and why it was not disclosed earlier.

Just over two months later, on Jan. 20, Mr. Springsteen sang from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a site that is also operated by the National Park Service, as part of a televised concert celebrating the inauguration of President Biden.

Then, on Sunday, he was shown driving a white Jeep through snow-swept plains in an ad during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. It was the first time in his five-decade career that he had agreed to appear in a commercial, a two-minute call for national unity.

Caryn Ganz and Ben Sisario contributed reporting.





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