BENNINGTON >> After pleading not guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in September, the executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation has entered a plea agreement that calls for him to pay a fine and take a safe driving course.
John Shannahan, 55, of Bennington, pleaded guilty Thursday in Vermont Superior Court to an amended misdemeanor charge of vehicle operation - reckless or gross negligence. His plea agreement stipulated that he will pay a $1,000 fine, plus approximately $200 in court fees, and complete a safe driving program.
Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown, who works in the Windham County State's Attorney's Office, prosecuted Shannahan's case because of a conflict of interest with the local State's Attorney's Office.
"Essentially, it's the same as a DUI," said Brown, Thursday, adding that Shannahan will have his driver's license suspended for 90 days. "He's not really getting a break, in the State's eyes."
According to an affidavit by State Police, Shannahan was pulled over on July 25 in North Bennington after a trooper witnessed his vehicle make a number of traffic violations. Police said Shannahan appeared intoxicated, and that he gave an evidentiary breath test showing his blood-alcohol level to be .155 percent, which is above the .08 percent limit for driving.
The BBC is a non-profit that "...is the lead organization which coordinates public and private efforts to maintain Downtown Bennington, Vermont as the commercial and cultural heart of the community," according to its website.
"John is a well respected, much liked and prominent citizen because he does so much good for this town and works so hard to help others," said Bennington attorney David Silver, who represents Shannahan. "I think it is a shame that the Banner feels that it is important to publicize this isolated incident — a mistake in judgment that could happen to anyone — simply because John is well known because of his good works. The outpouring of support for John from members of this community has been heartwarming and humbling. I feel privileged to have represented him and to count him as a friend."