'Southern Charm' Figure's D.W.I. Case Adjourned

Thomas Ravenel, right, on his way into East Hampton Town Justice Court in October. T.E. McMorrow

A drunken-driving case against Thomas Ravenel, a former South Carolina treasurer and current reality-television figure who was arrested in East Hampton last summer, has been adjourned once again, this time to May 8.

Mr. Ravenel’s attorney, Trevor Darrell, said that any further adjournment was unlikely. He said he had requested the delay to allow for negotiations with the district attorney's office. If no deal is in place by May 8, the matter will likely be headed for trial.

Mr. Ravenel was not in East Hampton Justice Court last Thursday, when Justice Steven Tekulsky granted the adjournment, but he will have to be there if a plea deal is reached.

Mr. Ravenel is a star of a new reality TV series "Southern Charm," which debuts tonight on the Bravo Network. Set in Charleston, S.C., it follows four men and two women, most of them descended from antebellum Southern aristocracy. The cast members "struggle with the constraints of this posh, tight-knit society," according to Bravo publicity. In the first episode, "Peter Pan Sin-Drome," the women challenge the playboy lifestyle of the men. Whitney Sudler-Smith, a member of the cast who shot a 10-minute video in 2010 that led to Bravo picking up the series, has called the show a "docu-series."

Mr. Ravenel, 51, who served seven months in jail in 2008 after being convicted in a federal court of cocaine distribution, has maintained his innocence on the drunken-driving charge since an East Hampton Village Police sergeant arrested him in the early hours of July 22. "I wasn't drunk," he said after a court appearance in October.

Immediately after his arrest he refused to take a stationhouse breath test, which would be a major impediment in the way of a negotiated plea deal. It is uncommon for the district attorney to accept a lower charge, for example, driving with ability impaired, in such cases. Mr. Ravenel said in October that he had gotten "bad advice" from the South Carolina attorney whom he called after his arrest. His 2007 guilty plea for cocaine possession could be another problem.

If no deal can be reached, then his May 8 appearance would likely be used to set a new date for pre-trial motions, after which a trial would be scheduled, probably in June or July.

When Mr. Ravenel was arraigned on the morning of his arrest, he told Justice Catherine A. Cahill that he was in the area to play polo in Southampton. It would be polo season again by the time of the trial. It also would be time to shoot new episodes of "Southern Charm," if the series is successful, raising the question of the trial, should it happen, being used as a backdrop for the show.

Mr. Darrel, however, dismissed the possibility. "He is trying to keep it as standard as anybody else," the lawyer said. "He is taking this very seriously. This is not a publicity stunt. He is seeking the best disposition possible."