Former Teacher Hit With DUI Charges For Fifth Time

February 9, 2018

HARVEYS LAKE — The former Wilkes-Barre Area School District teacher who was accused of covering up a fellow teacher’s student sex scandal years ago was hit this week with driving under the influence charges — for the fifth time.

Brian D. Hampel, 45, of 25 Harris Pond Road, Sweet Valley, was arrested early Sunday morning after police say he blew a 0.246 percent on a field breath test — more than three times the legal limit for driving.

According to a police affidavit, a Harveys Lake police officer saw Hampel run a stop sign at Old Lake Road and Lakeside Drive shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday. When the officer tried to pull Hampel over, he drove for more than a mile in the middle of the road, with his tires straddling the double yellow center lines, police said.

Hampel eventually turned on his left turn signal before steering his Nissan pickup right onto Church Road, where he stopped in the street, according to police. Police say Hampel had slurred speech and smelled strongly of alcohol, and was unsteady on his feet when asked to get out of the truck.

Asked how much he had to drink, Hampel remained silent and put his hands up, indicating surrender, according to police.

Hampel submitted to a field breath test, then passed out in the back of a police car while en route to the DUI processing center in Wilkes-Barre, police said. At the center, Hampel refused to blow into the Datamaster breath test machine, police said.

Officers noted the refusal and took Hampel home. Police on Thursday charged Hampel with misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence and summary violations for failing to stop at the sign and failing to keep right. He will be issued a summons to appear in court at a later date.

The charges represent the fifth time Hampel has been charged with drunken driving in Luzerne County. In his first case, stemming from an arrest in February 2002, Hampel entered the accelerated rehabilitative disposition, court records show.

The other three cases, all stemming from arrests in 2004, ended with Hampel pleading guilty to driving under the influence charges, according to court records.

Hampel’s DUI arrests recently came up in an arbitration decision ordering reinstatement of four GAR High School teachers who were fired for drinking alcohol prior to working as chaperones at a 2016 school dance.

Arbitrator Lawrence S. Coburn’s decision noted that a number of employees have been disciplined for violating the collective bargaining agreement’s drug policy, and identified Hampel as an employee who had four DUI arrests. A former superintendent knew about one of them, yet Hampel remained a district employee until he was recently fired for misconduct with a student, according to the document.

In October 2016, detectives charged Hampel with a count of corruption of minors, alleging he had a sexual relationship with a teenage student and routinely provided kegs of beer for and attended parties held by underage Coughlin students between 2003 and 2005.

But a county judge dismissed the case last May after defense attorney Al Flora Jr. argued the unidentified girl had never complained to police about inappropriate contact and that the statute of limitations had already expired anyway. Prosecutors did not oppose the dismissal, conceding that they did not think the “reasonable doubt burden of proof can be met at trial at this time.”

Hampel in turn filed a malicious prosecution lawsuit in August alleging Luzerne County detectives Charles Balogh and Debbie Parker arrested him without probable cause in an effort to “destroy his career and reputation.” That lawsuit is still pending in federal court.

Questions about Hampel’s behavior at Coughlin first surfaced during the student-sex trial of former administrator Stephen Stahl, a fellow teacher who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a minor at the school in 2004. 

Prosecutors at Stahl’s trial claimed Hampel served as a “lookout” while Stahl had sex with the 16-year-old girl in a classroom during school hours. Hampel denied the accusations when he testified.

In November, the Wilkes-Barre Area School Board agreed to pay Hampel $84,000 to settle a union grievance over his termination.