Ex-Miss USA Rima Fakih gets probation in DUI case

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By MIKE HOUSEHOLDER, Associated Press

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) — Rima Fakih, the first Arab-American to be crowned Miss USA, avoided jail during sentencing Wednesday in her Michigan drunken driving case, an experience she described as "very humbling."

Judge William McConico put Fakih on six months of probation, ordered the former beauty queen to perform 20 hours of community service and said she must pay $600 in fines and costs. Fakih also must attend an alcohol safety class.

The 26-year-old pleaded no contest last month to driving while visibly impaired in Highland Park, an enclave of Detroit. A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing. Fakih faced a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail.

"I'm very relieved" not to have been sentenced to serve jail time, Fakih said. "But let's say it got to that point. I was willing to pay the price it took because I knew I made mistakes."

Fakih 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.

She was asked Wednesday about her previous denial, but Fakih's lawyer, W. Otis Culpepper, said he didn't think it was "fair to revisit what went on that night."

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 in 2010, 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 and another put it at 0.19. The legal limit is .08.

Fakih said Wednesday the incident was out of character for her and that she didn't take her first drink until age 23.

"It's not something that I grew up to be like a party girl or anything like that," she said.

Fakih said she plans to pursue careers in acting and public speaking. She'll appear in a new celebrity dating show called "The Choice," which premieres June 7 on Fox.

"I'm more of an international figure now. I have young girls and people from all over the world watching me, so I have to make sure that anything I do I'm taking extra precaution," Fakih said. "Even though my intentions weren't to drive drunk, I did put myself and a lot of people in danger. So I did learn a lot."

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