Johnson County Judge Pleads Guilty To DWI

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — Johnson County Circuit Court Judge William M. Pearson pleaded guilty Monday (April 17) to driving while intoxicated in January, according to court documents.

“I regret my actions and look forward to redemption and making amends for this and assure all that this will never — ever — happen again,” Pearson said in a statement released Monday.

Pearson also apologized to his family, fellow judges and lawyers, and residents of the 5th Judicial Circuit, which consists of Franklin, Johnson and Pope counties.

Pearson, 57, was arrested Jan. 20 in connection with DWI after fleeing from police. Pearson failed to stop at a sobriety check point and led Arkansas State Police on a 1.5-mile chase that ended about 9:30 p.m. near 1300 Crawford St. on the west side of Clarksville, according to state police.

Pearson’s license will be suspended for six months and returned only if he completes an alcohol education course, according to court documents. Pearson also is required to pay a $700 fine and speak to college students about the dangers of DWI and drugs.

“I have never considered myself above the law, then or now,” Pearson said. “I simply should have known better not to drink and drive intoxicated. The shame and embarrassment is mine.”

Pearson received his undergraduate degree from Arkansas Tech University in 1981 and earned his Juris Doctorate at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1985.

Before becoming a judge, Pearson had a private legal practice in Clarksville for 21 years.

He worked as a public defender for Johnson County and Franklin County and was admitted to the Arkansas Bar in February 1986.

Pearson was elected to the Division 1 judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit in 2008 and earns $139,000 a year.

He ran unopposed and won re-election in May 2014. His current term is scheduled to end in 2020.