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Macon-Bibb commissioner ‘maintains his innocence’ after DUI arrest in downtown

How it works: Interlock ignition technology

Bibb County sheriff's Lt. Brad Wolfe weighs in on the DUI-prevention technology sold by LifeSafe to recidivist offenders. Timber Spence, of LifeSafe, explains how it works.
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Bibb County sheriff's Lt. Brad Wolfe weighs in on the DUI-prevention technology sold by LifeSafe to recidivist offenders. Timber Spence, of LifeSafe, explains how it works.

A Macon-Bibb County commissioner was arrested on a DUI charge early Friday in downtown.

Virgil Watkins, 34, who was elected in 2013 to represent District 8 on the new consolidated government commission, was booked into the Bibb County law enforcement center, sheriff’s public affairs Lt. Sean DeFoe said.

Georgia State Patrol Trooper First Class 2 Michael Brock stopped Watkins shortly after 1 a.m. after he allegedly almost ran a red light at Poplar and Fifth streets not far from Terminal Station, according to a GSP report obtained by The Telegraph.

Watkins was headed west on Poplar Street in a 2009 Chrysler 300 L when he ”stopped way after the stop bar within the intersection,” the report stated.

GSP Cadet Joshua Staff smelled a very strong odor of alcoholic beverage and noticed Watkins’ eyes were bloodshot and watery, according to the report.

Watkins said he had “one beer at The Rookery” and agreed to a field sobriety test, which noted his eyes were not tracking smoothly.

The report states that Watkins declined to complete the test but opted for a breathalyzer so that “I don’t waste anyone’s time,” Watkins was quoted as saying.

The Alco-Sensor field sobriety test indicated an alcohol content of .106 grams and he was placed under arrest, according to GSP records.

Watkins declined to give a blood sample after reading the implied consent notice four times, the report noted.

He bonded out of jail at about 6:30 a.m. Friday and told The Telegraph he is still processing what has happened and declined to comment.

“Once I have an understanding of what’s happened, I will talk to you or issue a statement,” Watkins said while returning a Telegraph reporter’s call shortly after getting out of jail. “This is my first time dealing with something like this and I’m not sure of the protocol.”

Watkins has hired attorney Sam Hart Jr. to represent him in the matter.

Friday morning Hart told The Telegraph: “These are just allegations right now and Commissioner Watkins maintains his innocence.”

Hart declined further comment on the incident, saying that he just picked up the case. The Telegraph again reached out to Watkins and Hart after the report was released, but Watkins referred inquiries to Hart, who was not immediately available.

Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said after a review of the county code “it appears these charges would not keep him from serving.”

The online inmate search system on the sheriff’s office website has not been working properly in recent days which prevented earlier release of booking information and Watkins’ mug shot, DeFoe said.

In September of 2016, Watkins was hospitalized after suffering an aneurysm months after being elected to a fourth term.

Watkins previously served on Macon City Council before being elected to the consolidated government where he currently represents communities in western Bibb County, including a portion of downtown.

He first worked as an intern in the C. Jack Ellis mayoral administration before running for office himself in 2007.

Watkins, a political newcomer at age 23, beat former City Councilman Gerald Harvey in a run-off for the Ward IV, Post 3, seat of the former Macon City Council.

On the eve of consolidation, Watkins fended off fellow city councilman Charles Jones to be elected to the new commission.

Two months later, he was arrested in Macon in 2013 on a bench warrant after failing to appear in court to answer for a Dooly County traffic ticket for expired registration.

“It’s nobody’s fault but mine,” Watkins told The Telegraph in 2013 after paying the fine and getting out of jail.

Information from The Telegraph archives contributed to this report.

Liz Jarvis Fabian has reported public safety issues in Middle Georgia for over 36 years. The former storm chaser and news anchor for The Weather Channel has won numerous awards including McClatchy President’s Awards for breaking news team coverage. Fabian was named Georgia AP’s best beat reporter in 2017.
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