Ex-Miss USA appears in Mich. court on DUI charge

January 18, 2012 - 6:05 PM
Miss USA Drunken Driving

Former Miss USA Rima Fakih appears with her attorney William Culpepper before Judge Brigette Officer during a hearing on a drunken driving charge at 30th District Court in Highland Park, Mich. Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. The judge set a March 14 trial date, but lawyers on both sides said they planned to talk in an attempt to resolve the case sooner. (AP Photo/Gary Malerba)

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan beauty queen who made headlines two years ago by becoming the first Arab-American crowned Miss USA will stand trial in March on a drunken-driving charge unless a plea deal is reached, a judge said Wednesday.

Judge Brigette Officer set a March 14 trial date for Rima Fakih, who made her first court appearance since the Dec. 3 traffic stop in the Detroit enclave of Highland Park. Fakih, 26, has said she wasn't drinking that night, but two police breath tests put her blood alcohol content at over twice the legal limit.

"I apologize. My lawyer doesn't want me to talk," Fakih told reporters outside court.

Fakih, whose family moved to New York from Lebanon in 1993 and then to Detroit suburb of Dearborn 10 years later, won the Miss USA Pageant in 2010, becoming 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-9/11 America.

Fakih's lawyer, W. Otis Culpepper, said he'll prepare for a trial but knows a plea bargain is also possible. He said he anticipates that a "proper conclusion" will be reached.

"Of course she's remorseful," Culpepper said. "She's a model for young women. ... She's a woman of substantial character."

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 that officers found an open bottle of champagne behind the driver's seat of the 2011 Jaguar.

Fakih denied that she had been drinking, but one breath test put her blood alcohol content at 0.20 percent and another put it at 0.19 percent — both above the legal limit of 0.08. She's charged with drunken driving, careless driving and having an open container of alcohol, all misdemeanors.

Before the hearing, assistant city attorney Mohammed A. Nasser told The Associated Press that he was new to the case and hadn't spoken yet to Culpepper about a settlement.