Former Miss USA reaches plea deal in DUI

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — Rima Fakih, the first Arab-American to be crowned Miss USA, pleaded no contest Wednesday in a Michigan drunken driving case.

The former beauty queen offered the plea to driving while visibly impaired.

“You learn, you pay your price for making mistakes and you move on. I’m very happy I can put this behind me,” Fakih, a former Miss Michigan who was crowned Miss USA in 2010, said outside the court in Highland Park, an enclave of Detroit.

“I’m just going to move on and make sure I learn my lessons.”

A no contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing, which will take place May 9. She faces a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail.

Her lawyer, Otis Culpepper, predicted that Fakih would be sentenced to probation, which he said she could serve in California, where she is pursuing opportunities in the entertainment industry. Fakih will “get back to California and get on with being a Hollywood kind of person,” Culpepper said.

A trial had been planned before 30th District Court Judge Brigette Officer on the original charges of drunken driving, careless driving and having an open container of alcohol. The judge accepted the plea, telling Fakih: “Good luck. I’ll see you on May 9.”

Fakih, 26, has said she wasn’t drinking the night of her arrest in December, but two police breath tests put her blood alcohol content at more than twice the legal limit.

Fakih’s family moved to New York from Lebanon in 1993, and then to the Detroit suburb of Dearborn 10 years later. When she won the Miss USA Pageant, she became the first Arab-American to do so. Supporters described her win as a victory for diversity, saying it countered negative stereotypes about people of Middle Eastern descent that have flourished in post-Sept. 11 America.

Police said Fakih was driving 60 mph in a 30 mph zone and weaving in and out of traffic before they pulled her over, and officers found an open bottle of champagne behind the driver’s seat of the 2011 Jaguar.

One breath test put her blood alcohol content at 0.20 percent and another put it at 0.19 percent. The legal limit is .08 percent.

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