Troubled GOP Rep. Fossella On His Way Out?
The consensus on Capitol Hill is: Vito is finito.
The clock is ticking on Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) -- or "Vino" Fossella, as the New York tabloids have taken to calling him -- who is battling not just drunken driving charges but much more personally scandalous allegations that could damage his party's prospects in the November congressional elections.
GOP political insiders say Fossella, whose blood-alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit when he was busted at 12:15 a.m. last Thursday, stands little chance of running for reelection at this point, and their Democratic counterparts agree. Buzz on the Hill and around town Wednesday was that Fossella would be announcing sooner rather than later that he won't seek another term in what has quickly become a hotly contested seat for embattled Republicans. Fossella was not voting in the House Wednesday.
The Staten Island Republican was stopped for running a red light and charged with driving while intoxicated in Alexandria, Va., about three miles from the home of a woman who reportedly fetched him from the police station seven hours after his arrest.
Fossella, who has three children with his wife, Mary Pat, changed his story a few times about why he left a Dupont Circle area bar, the Logan Tavern, and drove across the river to the Virginia suburbs.
According to May 1 police report, a copy of which was obtained by the Sleuth, Fossella told police he was on his way to pick up his sick daughter at her home in Alexandria and take her to the hospital. But the next day at a news conference, Fossella said he was driving to the suburbs in the wee hours of the morning to see friends.
Fossella was specific with the arresting officer about where he was headed. He gave a street name where he said he was picking up his daughter. That street, it turns out, is the same street where retired Lt. Col. Laura Fay lives with her three-year-old daughter. Fay, according to the New York Daily News, picked up Fossella from the police station.
When asked by the Daily News earlier this week whether Fossella fathered Fay's daughter, Fossella's crisis communications consultant, Susan Del Percio, declined to answer. "This is a demeaning and highly inappropriate question," she said.
Fossella's attorney, Barry J. Pollack, with the firm Kelley, Drye & Warren, wouldn't comment on where the congressman was headed when he was arrested. He told the Sleuth, "Where he was heading or who he was going to see really aren't at the heart of the legal case."
As for the underlying charge of drunken driving, Pollack said, "This is not the crime of the century, this is a DUI case."
Del Percio, who didn't immediately return a phone call and email from the Sleuth seeking comment, also told the Daily News that Fossella and Fay met when she worked as a legislative liaison for the Air Force.
GOP aides speaking on the condition of anonymity said they expected Fossella would announce imminently that he won't seek reelection. But Fossella spokesman Craig Donner tells the Sleuth that no announcement or press conference is planned.
The New York Times reported that Fossella could be in political hot water. The Times quoted Daniel Kramer, an emeritus professor of political science at the College of Staten Island, as saying, "If it's just a matter of his being arrested for drunken driving, it won't have wide-ranging implications for him, politically. But if it turns out there are more disclosures regarding his behavior and his personal life, it would well affect him."
Fay's ex-husband, Guy Michael Shoaf, filed for divorce in 2005. According to their divorce records in the Circuit Court of Arlington County, "there were no children born or adopted of the marriage" between them.
Fossella faced up to five days in jail if convicted. According to the police report, the congressman was so drunk he couldn't accurately recite the alphabet from the letter "D" through "T." According to police, he said, "D, E, F, H, G, H, I, J, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T." He "stumbled" on the one-legged stand test and was "swaying" when he performed the heel-to-toe test, according to the report.
Fossella's breath test was a .17, which is more than twice Virginia's 0.08 legal limit.
Mary Ann Akers
May 7, 2008; 4:43 PM ET
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