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Heiress Loses Drunk-Driving Case

Billionaire Alice Walton could have paid $650 to settle her drunken-driving case but instead chose to fight the charges with a pair of high-powered attorneys. She lost.

The Wal-Mart heiress is worth $6.3 billion and the second richest woman in America, according to Forbes magazine. She was convicted on all four counts early Friday,and she could be sent to jail for a year when she is sentenced July 2.

Walton, 48, frowned slightly as the judge's decision became apparent, but she later said she had no regrets about Thursday's trial, which included 12 hours of testimony and 23 witnesses.

"I wanted to tell my side of the story. That was personally very important to me," spokesman Skip Rutherford read from a statement she prepared. "I appreciate all the time the court devoted to my case."

Her mother, Helen Walton, the richest woman in the United States, showed little emotion as she sat through the trial and the verdict.

Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton, crashed her car near her home Jan. 27. She broke her nose in the accident, and her car hit a gas meter and a telephone box. She testified that she had had a few drinks earlier that night but wasn't drunk.

Police officers testified that Walton repeatedly refused to submit to a blood-alcohol test at the hospital.

"She turned back to me and said, 'Do you know who I am? Do you know my last name'?" Police Officer Charles Motsinger testified.

Walton said she did not recall making those statements but said that "Officer Motsinger was very ugly to me."

Municipal Judge Stanley Ludwig found Walton guilty of driving while intoxicated, refusing to take a blood-alcohol test at the request of police, driving without a seat belt, and failing to properly maintain control of her vehicle.

He ordered Walton to report to the Ozark Guidance Center to be evaluated by a counselor, who will recommend either an alcohol education or rehabilitation program for Walton.

She faces up to a year in jail and a $1,125 in fines. She already has begun serving an automatic 180-day suspension of her driver's license for refusing to take the test.

Ludwig said there was no apparent reason other than intoxication for Mrs. Walton's late-night, single-vehicle accident in good weather. He also pointed out the results of her own blood test.

After she was released by police, Walton received a second blood test. A hospital worker testified Walton registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent. The legal limit is 0.10.

Walton's attorneys dubbed the Arkansas version of the "Dream Team" by one prosecutor argued that the crash could have been caused by fatigue after a full day of business meetings.

According to Forbes magazine, Walton was worth $6.3 billion last year. Her mother was worth $6.4 billion.

Written by David A. Leib

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