A judge on Tuesday ordered a Detroit-area man to stand trial on a felony child abuse charge for allegedly having his 9-year-old daughter drive him around during a night of drinking.
District Judge Michael McNally told 39-year-old Shawn Weimer that even though Weimer's daughter wasn't injured or killed while driving him around in his company van in the early morning hours of Oct. 8, she could have been.
"Actual harm need not result. ... Fortunately, she was not involved in an accident," McNally said in his Woodhaven courtroom. He said there was enough evidence to warrant the felony charge of second-degree child abuse, the most serious charge he faces and one that could land him in prison for up to four years if he's convicted. He also is charged with fourth-degree child abuse and allowing an unlicensed person to drive, which are both misdemeanors.
Defense attorney Barry Adler said after the hearing that Weimer was "grossly overcharged," and that the defense will seek to get the felony count dismissed after a Nov. 29 arraignment in Wayne County Circuit Court.
"This young lady was a very proficient driver ... for her age," Adler said. "(His) conduct is not excusable but it is explainable. ... We're hopeful a Circuit Court judge will see it differently."
Weimer's daughter testified last week that her father had consumed half a bottle of whiskey the night they were pulled over and that she agreed to drive but felt a "little scared."
Police arrested Weimer after pulling over the van and finding his daughter behind the wheel near their home.
Weimer declined to comment after the hearing. But Adler and his co-counsel, David Steingold, said Weimer is "devastated" that he can only see his daughter three times a week for one hour with supervision.
McNally wasn't swayed by the defense attorneys' arguments that the girl did not face likely physical harm. He said she lacked training to drive the vehicle, had to use a booster seat to drive and was being supervised by an intoxicated parent. He cited surveillance video previously shown in court from a gas station where Weimer bragged about his daughter's driving skills while she munched on a candy apple.
"Nine years old _ 9," Weimer said in the gas station. "We're leaving and she's driving. I'm drunk."
Brownstown Township Deputy Police Chief Robert Matthews said Tuesday that officers offered Weimer a preliminary breath test but he refused. He wasn't accused of driving drunk because he wasn't physically operating the vehicle.