Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman has apologized for writing a letter asking a Maricopa County Superior Court judge to go easy on a convict who killed a Tempe teen while driving drunk.
Berman issued an apology statement Thursday, less than a month after he submitted the letter on behalf of Raymond Kohan - a 35-year-old man who ran a red light in 2006, slamming into the car of 17-year-old Sean Andujar.
The letter was written on Gilbert town letterhead and asked the judge to be "compassionate and grant Raymond probation with no prison sentence."
Kohan, who has an extensive criminal history, had a blood alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit, records show. He was found guilty of manslaughter and endangerment and will be sentenced Sept. 26.
In Thursday's apology, Berman wrote: "Recently, I submitted a character reference letter for Raymond Kohan requesting probation in his impending sentencing. It was a mistake to do so, and I have sent a letter to the Superior Court asking that my letter be withdrawn. I profoundly apologize to the citizens of Gilbert; and even more importantly, I apologize to the family of Sean Andujar for writing this letter."
Berman did not return calls.
But his apology backtracks from a statement he issued last week about the letter and comes days after dozens of Gilbert and Valley residents have written e-mails to the mayor, blasting him for supporting Kohan.
The e-mails are brutal and direct, referring to the mayor as "arrogant," a "scum bag" and "corrupt."
Berman initially released a statement to KNXV-TV (Channel 15) after news about the letter came out. In that statement, he wrote: "If I had to do it over again, I would have written the letter on a personal letterhead rather than town stationary."
He also added: "Before writing the letter, I checked public records and found no indication that Raymond had ever been cited previously for DUI."
But Kohan has a detailed criminal past.
Court records show that he has seven drug arrests, two other DUIs, grand theft and petty theft charges, disorderly conduct arrests, probation violation and was found driving with a suspended license.
It's not clear how Berman and Kohan know each other.
Kohan couldn't be reached, and Berman won't talk about their relationship.
But in the mayor's letter, he wrote that he has known Kohan and his family socially and professionally for a number of years.