March 22, 2013

Pirates' owner changes his OUI plea to guilty

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The managing owner of the Portland Pirates hockey team said Friday that his guilty plea in connection with a car crash in December was "a turning point and an awakening" in his life and hoped others would learn from his mistake.

click image to enlarge

Portand Pirates managing owner Brian Petrovek appears at his sentencing hearing for drunk driving, in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on Friday.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Brian Petrovek, 58, of Yarmouth, pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of operating under the influence v to avoid serving jail time. He was sentenced to serve 72 hours in an out-of-jail program.

Petrovek had a blood alcohol content level more than three times the legal limit at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 5 when he crashed his black Jeep Wrangler into the concrete barrier dividing Spring Street in downtown Portland.

A passerby called police to report the vehicle was stuck at the intersection of Spring and Center streets, near the Cumberland County Civic Center where the Pirates play, according to the accident report.

Nobody was injured and no other vehicles were involved.

When the police arrived at 1:18 a.m., Petrovek was in the Jeep, revving the engine and trying to free the vehicle from the barrier, police said.

Petrovek changed his plea in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court as part of a plea agreement reached by his attorney, Michael Whipple, and the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office.

In addition to the 72-hour program -- a weekend of first-offender education and community service -- Justice Thomas Warren ordered Petrovek to pay a fine of $750 and noted that he had already lost his license for 90 days.

Petrovek will begin serving his 72-hour sentence on May 24.

"I take full responsibility for my actions," Petrovek said in a brief sit-down interview after he left the courtroom.

Petrovek said he feels he needs to be held accountable for what he did, just as any other member of the Pirates organization would be.

"I think the lesson now has been learned and is now more deeply a part of my day-to-day life," he said. "We, the Pirates organization, hope others learn from my mistake."

Petrovek said he is happy to put the case behind him but that his thoughts go back to the day of the crash and his arrest.

"It was a turning point and an awakening," Petrovek said. "One has to take responsibility for his actions, and that has certainly been the case with this."

In 2006, Kevin Dineen, the Pirates' former head coach, served a 48-hour sentence and paid a $750 fine after he was convicted of driving to endanger. He had been charged with drunken driving in South Portland following a night out with coaches and players at the end of the season.

Police did not say at the time of Petrovek's crash how the Jeep was immobilized by the median, which is about 2 feet tall.

An officer gave Petrovek a field sobriety test and charged him with operating under the influence.

Police said a blood alcohol test later indicated a level of 0.25 percent, more than three times the level of 0.08 percent, at which a driver is considered legally intoxicated.

State records show that Petrovek has no previous driving infractions in Maine and has a number of safe-driving credits.

The accident report says he was "not able to describe his actions prior to the crash." Police were unable to say at the time of the crash where Petrovek had been drinking.

The Pirates are owned by a group, led by Boston lawyer Lyman Bullard, that includes Petrovek. As managing owner/CEO of the Portland Pirates, Petrovek manages the business side of the American Hockey League team.

The Pirates are in their second year as the American Hockey League affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL team that provides coaches, players and support staff. An AHL spokesperson did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The Dec. 5 accident report includes other details:

• The concrete barrier sustained little or no damage, the road was wet but conditions were clear and the speed limit in the area is 25 mph.

• A diagram shows that the front passenger's side of the 2003 Jeep hit the median, and that the vehicle was headed west toward High Street.

• The report also lists Petrovek's vanity license plate: "Arrrrgh."

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at

sdolan@mainetoday.com

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