A part-time Dunedin resident, exonerated after serving eight years in prison for arson, is fighting Florida’s effort to permanently take away his driving privilege.
William Haughey is a 45-year-old Dunedin resident who splits his time between Florida and New York.
In 2008, a New York court convicted Haughey of arson and criminal mischief for his alleged connection to a 2007 fire at a Putnam County, New York, tavern called Smalley’s Inn.
After serving eight years of a 10-year sentence, he was exonerated and released in May 2016 through the efforts of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice and Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy.
Elected in January 2016, Tendy commissioned a re-examination of Haughey’s case, and appeared in U.S. District Court in May of that year, arguing for granting Haughey’s writ, and to vacate the conviction.
Tendy said officials botched the arson investigation, as well as inconsistent witness reports, showed that Haughey was innocent and falsely convicted.
After his release, Haughey filed a $25 million claim for compensation with the New York Court of Claims in July 2016.
Six months after his release, a Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputy arrested Haughey for a DUI. Court records show Haughey had two previous DUIs in New York (1999 and 2002).
Haughey pleaded ‘no contest’ to the Florida DUI, expecting the standard six-month driver’s license suspension, as dictated by Florida law.
However, Florida officials revoked his license permanently after discovering Haughey was involved in a fourth alcohol-related conviction from 1992, in New York.
In a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court May 18, Haughey argues the state made an error.
The 1992 incident, Haughey says, was for a lesser offense: driving while ability impaired, a traffic infraction for those who have consumed some alcohol but have a blood alcohol level of less than 0.8 percent. The infraction should not count as a so-called DUI.
Haughey believes his license should only be suspended for six months, under Florida law.