Pirates president Coonelly charged with DUI

| Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

Pirates president Frank Coonelly has been charged with four counts related to drunken driving in Ross.

Ross Township police arrested Coonelly, 51, of Sewickley on Dec. 22 and charged him with drunken driving, driving the wrong way, careless driving and driving with a blood-alcohol content of at least .16, according to court records. The state's legal limit is .08.

Police described the DUI charges as Coonelly's first offenses, according to the court documents.

"My actions that evening were irresponsible and wrong," Coonelly said in a statement. He arrived this morning in Bradenton, Fla., to join the Pirates at their spring training complex.

"I take full and sole responsibility for them. There is no excuse for ever driving under the influence of alcohol."

Coonelly is married with four children.

"My wife and I have preached to our children about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol, not only for themselves but for the innocent drivers, passengers and pedestrians on the road," Coonelly said. "I am embarrassed that I failed to follow this advice myself on this occasion and extremely grateful no one was injured or adversely affected by this serious lapse of judgment."

Coonelly pledged to support groups that work to prevent DUI tragedies.

"I have apologized to my wife and children, to Bob Nutting and to all of those at the Pirates organization who work so tirelessly for the club. I would also like to apologize to all of the fans and friends of the Pittsburgh Pirates. My conduct that night was uncharacteristic to my personally held values and not who I am. I will learn from this serious lapse of judgment."

Bob Nutting, the Pirates' chairman of the board who hired Coonelly to his current post in September 2007, said he was thankful nobody was injured and expressed support for Coonelly.

"Frank called me immediately to apologize for the mistakes he had made," Nutting said. "I expressed my extreme disappointment in his actions. I know that, through our discussion, he clearly understands the seriousness of his poor decisions, the harm that could have been inflicted on others and the embarrassment his mistakes have caused the organization."

Nutting said Coonelly's actions were not the norm.

"In the years I have gotten to know Frank personally, I have learned that he is a dedicated husband and father who has strong values that are grounded in his family, religion and hard work," Nutting said. "These mistakes are not characteristic of the man that I know and I am confident he has learned from them."

The DUI charges are misdemeanors, while driving the wrong way and careless driving are summary offenses.

Coonelly said he was pulled over by the police just off the Parkway North's Perrysville exit for the HOV lane. Coonelly said he made one turn and realized he was going the wrong way — about 5-10 feet, by his estimate — before making a U-turn. That, Coonelly said, was when the police came.

Coonelly waved his right to a preliminary hearing Feb. 1 and was released on his own recognizance. A formal arraignment is scheduled for March 20 in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Coonelly has been an outgoing leader for the Pirates, frequently engaging fans during games at PNC Park. But the team has continued to lose under his watch, extending its professional sports record to 19 seasons.

Before joining the Pirates, Coonelly worked as a lawyer in Washington, D.C., then for a decade as Major League Baseball's general counsel. In that role, he led a staff of lawyers in representing baseball in litigation, arbitration of labor disputes and offering advice to the 30 member clubs.

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