Rocker Bruce Springsteen fined US$540 for drinking tequila in US national park

Charges against Springsteen (above) of reckless driving and driving under the influence were dropped. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - Bruce Springsteen has been fined US$540 (S$700) after pleading guilty to consuming alcohol in a national recreation area where drinking is banned, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday (Feb 24).

The Thunder Road superstar was arrested on Nov 14, 2020, for drinking what he said in the Zoom court hearing was "two small shots of tequila" in New Jersey's Gateway National Recreation Area.

Springsteen was also cited for reckless driving and driving under the influence, two charges the court dropped on Wednesday, with the government saying it would not be able to provide sufficient evidence to prove them.

Appearing in a black jacket and sweater over a collared button-up, the 71-year-old rock icon was calm and cordial as he acknowledged consuming the alcohol in the park despite knowing it was illegal.

After he initially entering a not guilty plea to all three charges, the defence and prosecution agreed Springsteen would plead guilty to the drinking in a closed area charge in exchange for dismissing the others and avoiding a trial.

Judge Anthony Mautone noted it wasn't until two summers ago that drinking in the oceanside park has been considered a legal violation.

He also emphasised Springsteen's near impeccable driving record, after the defence cited the rocker's lack of criminal history.

"Rarely would you see a driver's abstract so devoid of any entries as I see before me, Mr Springsteen," said the judge, noting one violation that involved cellphone use in a vehicle.

Jeep ad returning?

Prosecutors said Springsteen had declined to take a preliminary breath test when a park ranger stopped him, but that such a test is not required by law.

Mautone ordered the artist to pay US$500 for consuming alcohol in the park, along with US$40 in court fees.

"Mr Springsteen, I need to ask you how long you need to pay that fine," the judge asked the international rock star who has released 20 studio albums over the course of his nearly half-century career.

"I think I can pay that immediately, your honour," the artist and New Jersey native said with a smile.

The judge ordered him to take care of the fine within a week.

After his arrest Springsteen, who had been operating a motorcycle, submitted to a breath test and blew .02, well under New Jersey's legal driving limit of a .08 blood alcohol concentration.

Because he was arrested on federal property, the musician was tried in what's known as enclave court, and was not under New Jersey's jurisdiction, though prosecutors said they reviewed the northeastern state's law as persuasive guidance.

Well over 100 people, most of them journalists, viewed the court proceedings, which were held via video chat due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though it ultimately amounted to little, news of the Springsteen case flared on social media when it came to light in early February.

It came out days after Springsteen was featured in a two-minute Jeep commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl.

The carmaker pulled the ad, saying it would "pause" its broadcast until "actual facts can be established."

Jeep did not immediately comment on whether it would revive the commercial.

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