A father who made headlines for using his 9-year-old daughter as his designated driver when he had too much to drink was sentenced Thursday to two years' probation.
In exchange for the sentence, Shawn Weimer pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an Oct. 8, 2011, incident in which security cameras outside a Detroit-area gas station caught the 9-year-old doing her best to maneuver the family van alongside the gas pumps.
Moments later, security cameras inside the store caught Weimer bragging to onlookers about his daughter's driving skills and calling her his "designated driver." The pair then hopped back into the van and drove off, with the girl behind the wheel.
Someone in the store called the police, who stopped Weimer and his daughter a few minutes later.
The case made headlines because the initial news of it struck many as funny. A 9-year-old behind the wheel? Really? And judging by the security video, she seemed to be doing a pretty good job of it. Moreover, there was the child's indignation at being pulled over by police.
“What did you stop me for? I was driving good,” she was quoted as saying to the officer at the time.
But as the media delved into the story, a darker tale emerged.
Weimer, 39, has long struggled with alcohol, and had prior convictions, including a 2007 DUI charge that involved a crash. And it didn't get any funnier when the media learned that the child had to be turned over to grandparents on the night of Weimer's arrest because no one knew her mother's whereabouts.
The child was put on the spot again during a November court hearing, during which she broke down and cried under the stress of testifying about her father's actions that night. She said he had been drinking whiskey, but she insisted that her dad was not drunk.
Weimer later told the local media that he'd begun driving when he was just a boy, too, and at the time didn't see much wrong with allowing his daughter to do the same. “It's just something that I experienced when I was a kid that I shared with my daughter,” Weimer told the Detroit Free Press. He added that she has been driving off-road vehicles since she was about 3.
Weimer says he has been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree child abuse and allowing an unlicensed minor to operate a motor vehicle.
“Take care of your child,” Judge Margie R. Braxton told him at Thursday's sentencing, according to the Associated Press.