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Auditor candidate arrested for DUI on tractor

UNION TOWNSHIP — An Independent candidate for Lawrence County Auditor was arrested Monday night for DUI — while driving a tractor.

Jon Ater, of Proctorville, said the incident was “politically driven” and he vows to fight the matter in court.

According to a Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office report, deputies received calls that a man, who was possibly intoxicated, was operating a Kubota tractor on State Route 243 in Union Township.

Deputy Daren Hamlin was first to locate the tractor and according to the report, saw the farm vehicle veer “left of center.” Hamlin said he stopped the tractor and Ater was uncooperative. When contacted Tuesday by The Tribune, Ater denied being uncooperative.

Deputy Jason Newman said in his report that he arrived on the scene a short time later.

“While speaking with Mr. Ater, I noticed his eyes were glassy and bloodshot,” Newman said. “ Mr. Ater also had slurred speech and could not keep his balance while he was talking with me. I noticed an open container of Miller Lite was in view on the tractor.”

Newman said in his report Ater first refused to take a field sobriety test unless it was audio and videotaped. He later agreed to take the tests and failed all three of them.

Two empty beer cans and a cooler with some unopened cans of beer were allegedly confiscated from the tractor.

Ater was taken to the Ironton Police Department for a blood alcohol test but allegedly refused to take it. He was then taken to the Lawrence County Jail where he was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, an open container violation and driving left of center. He posted bond and was released a short time later.

According to Newman’s report, the tractor was released to Ater’s wife to take home.

Ater asked the public to trust him regarding the incident and denied all charges.

“I’m not sure who is behind this,” Ater said. “My attorney (Jim Eachus, of Gallipolis) will address the rest of it.”

Ater is running as an Independent candidate for county auditor. Ater’s name did not appear on the ballot in Tuesday’s primary election but will be on the general election ballot in November. He faces Democrat Stephen Dale Burcham and Republican Jason Stephens for the seat that is being vacated by the retirement of long-time officeholder Ray T. “Moose” Duty.