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Editor pleads guilty to DUI
Clarke booked Jan. 19, sentenced to fine, community service
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Mitch Clarke, executive editor of The Times, pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to maintain his lane.

Clarke will serve 40 hours of community service and pay an $800 fine for the DUI charge.

In addition, Clarke will be placed on a 12-month probation, undergo drug and alcohol evaluations and complete Georgia's Risk Reduction Program at a DUI school. For the failure to maintain lane charge, he will serve a consecutive 12-month probation.

The sentence is typical for a first offense. Clarke's Gainesville-based attorney Michelle Rohan asked for no jail time for the first-time arrest that she called an "aberration out of the pattern."

The solicitor general's office asked for a standard 48-hour jail time because Clarke spent only two hours in custody after his arrest in January. State Court Judge Gene Roberts deemed that Clarke served enough time to fulfill the 48-hour sentence.

Clarke's arraignment, originally scheduled for May 11, was moved up one week to submit the guilty plea. Under a first-time offense, he is eligible to obtain a limited driving permit.

At 11:47 p.m. Jan. 19, Clarke was traveling north on Ga. 13 when Hall County Sheriff Deputy Chris Dale saw the Honda Accord cross over the center line three times, according to a police report narrative obtained by The Times through an open records request.

Dale initiated a stop at Hospital Drive, and Clarke pulled over in the parking lot of La Flor de Jalisco and Family Dollar. Dale approached the car and "immediately observed an overwhelming odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the vehicle," according to the report.

Dale noted bloodshot and watery eyes, a flush face and slurred speech. When Dale said he saw the car cross the center line, Clarke said he did and explained he was tired.

Dale asked what the driver had been drinking but "could not understand what the driver said through the slurred speech." Clarke was unclear about how long ago he had been drinking and wasn't sure what the current time was.

When Dale asked the driver to exit the vehicle to complete sobriety tests, Clarke complied and added, "I'm the editor of The Times," according to the report.

After the sobriety tests, Dale handcuffed Clarke, who "asked Dale multiple times not to arrest him, saying, ‘Please just let me go home.' ‘I won't drive away.' ‘You can follow me home.'"

Dale transported Clarke to the Hall County Jail, where Clarke was booked at 12:56 a.m. When Dale returned to his patrol vehicle, he "still observed an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from the back seat of the vehicle," according to the report.

Clarke was bonded out of jail by Times publisher Dennis Stockton, whom court records show as "Dennis Lee Stocken," and released at 1:58 a.m.