Again... was Springsteen framed?

Now that it’s apparently over, I wanted to touch on the rather bizarre story involving rock and roll legend Bruce Springsteen that cropped up earlier this month. Back in November, the Boss was reportedly pulled over and booked on DWI charges in his home state of New Jersey. He had allegedly been seen drinking shots with some fans at the Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, then hopping on his motorcycle and driving off into the night. A cop pulled him over, whereupon Springsteen supposedly refused to take a blood-alcohol test and he was booked. He was also charged with reckless driving. The press was having a field day with clever headlines about “Blunder Road” and related quips based on some of his more popular songs.

While all of that initial reporting was going on, I kept seeing opinion pieces popping up claiming that the police had gotten the entire incident wrong, either through some mistake in processing the case or intentionally. Was someone trying to frame Springsteen? Well, he’s had his day in court now (via remote access) and it’s looking more and more like his defenders were correct. All but one of the charges against him were dropped, including the DWI. He managed to keep his sense of humor throughout the proceedings. (CNN)

Bruce Springsteen pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he imbibed alcohol at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, despite knowing it was prohibited.

“I had two small shots of Tequila,” Springsteen said in a virtual appearance before New Jersey Federal Court.
The plea came after federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Springsteen was operating a vehicle under the influence and driving recklessly, charges Assistant US Attorney Adam Baker said the government would not be able to prove…

Springsteen was arrested at Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook on November 14 and charged with DWI, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area, according to a spokesperson for the National Park Service.

I’ve seen a couple of bloggers claiming that Bruce Springsteen was let off easy because of his celebrity status, but the facts don’t seem to bear that out. He admitted to having two shots of tequila with some fans in the park, which is prohibited because no alcohol is allowed in the closed recreation area. That’s the sole charge that he pleaded guilty to and he was fined $500 and an additional $40 in court costs. When the judge asked if he would be able to pay it, Springsteen smiled and assured the court that he could take care of the fine the same day.

But what about the other charges? Springsteen was reportedly taken to a ranger station where he did voluntarily take a breathalyzer test and he recorded a .02% blood-alcohol level. That’s basically nothing. The legal limit in New Jersey is .08% so he wasn’t even close. The cop who pulled him over told a different story, however. He claimed that he could smell alcohol “strongly” on the singer’s breath, that his eyes seemed “glassy” and that he failed to correctly perform the “walk and turn test.” He also said that Bruce “was visibly swaying back and forth.”

Something just doesn’t add up here. How far out of control could Springsteen have been with only a .02% BAC? Granted, you might be able to smell alcohol on someone’s breath within ten minutes of downing a shot of tequila, but the rest of the description of the Boss’ performance after being pulled over sounds rather unlikely. So was the cop exaggerating his account of the arrest to make Springsteen look more culpable than he actually was? I suppose they might have wanted to be able to claim the bust of a major celebrity. But once that BAC reading came back, why wouldn’t they just drop the charges immediately instead of dragging this out for months?

I realize that a lot of conservatives take a dim view of Bruce Springsteen and might not want to take his side. He’s a liberal Democrat who has been very vocal about politics, particularly in recent years. That’s unfortunate because I enjoyed all of his early work when I was growing up and I hate to see entertainers I enjoy jumping into such matters and immediately alienating half of their audience. But that’s still no reason to set the guy up. Perhaps we’ll get some additional answers in the future, but for the moment, this entire case smells fishy. (Which is better than smelling like tequila, I guess.)