Councillor Ana Bailão wiped away tears at a City Hall press conference Monday afternoon as she announced she had pleaded guilty to drunk driving.
The first-term councillor from Ward 18, Davenport was arrested on October 16, 2012 and faced two charges: impaired driving and "over 80," or driving with a blood alcohol level greater than 80 mg/100 ml.
She told reporters Monday that she had appeared in court earlier in the day and pled guilty to the over 80 charge. The second charge was dropped. Under a sentence agreed to by the Crown, she will be prohibited from driving for 12 months, and will pay a $1,000 fine.
"I made a bad choice. I take full responsibility for that. And I accept the consequences,' she said.
At one point, the councillor, overcome with emotion, took a lengthy pause from reading her prepared statement in order to compose herself. She broke out in tears several times.
Shortly after her arrest last fall, Bailão said she intended to plead not guilty, provoking criticism from anti-drunk driving advocates. On Monday she said that she had taken time over the Christmas holidays to "reconnect with myself" and concluded that she should plead guilty instead.
"Immediately after [the arrest] I was having difficulty accepting what happened," she said. "The media pressure was unrelenting and I was getting advice from dozens of people about what I should do. I listened to that advice, instead of listening to my heart. That's why initially I was going to plead guilty. I made a bad choice. In my heart I've always known that."
She said that she never considered resigning her council seat over her arrest, and plans to run for re-election in 2014.
The night of her arrest, Bailão had attended the Mayor's Ball for the Arts, and then gone to the Thompson Hotel, reportedly with a group that included lobbyists from Sussex Strategy Group, a firm hired by casino giant MGM to petition the city on building a casino.
Shortly before 2 a.m. she was stopped driving north on Bathurst near Harbord when a police officer noticed her lights were off.
On Monday, Bailão would not confirm who she was with at Thompson Hotel, but did say casino lobbyists were among her group. She insisted that no lobbying activity took place at the Thompson - if it had, it could have been a violation of city bylaws that govern contact between councillors and lobbyists.
She also revealed that although she "felt in control" when she got behind the wheel, at the time of her arrest her blood alcohol level was 130 mg/100 ml, well over the legal limit of 80 mg/100 ml. She would not answer questions about how many drinks she had.
Asked why she didn't plead guilty in the first place, Bailão told the phalanx of reporters in front of her, "Try to be on this side. It's not easy. You're a new politician... you just have 1,000 things coming at you. And I didn't listen to my heart, and I should have."
At a press conference one day after her arrest last fall, Bailão was joined by several councillors including Doug Ford, Pam McConnell, Mike Layton, and Josh Colle. They were condemned by critics who said that supporting Bailão's intention to plead not guilty could be perceived as condoning drunk driving.
On Monday Bailão appeared before the cameras alone. She acknowledged however that the mayor's office had assisted with her communications on the issue.
Shortly after her announcement, Rob Ford's office released a statement.
"Councillor Ana Bailao did something wrong and she's taken full responsibility for her actions," Mayor Ford was quoted as saying. "I have faith in the justice system and the Court's decision regarding the appropriate consequences. Ana is a good local Councillor, she works hard and represents her residents well at City Hall. I look forward to continuing to work with her on Council."