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Phish lead singer arrested in Whitehall

Phish lead singer arrested in Whitehall

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WHITEHALL - He said his name was Ernest J. Anastasio, and he lived in Vermont.

That name did not register with police, until he said he went by the nickname "Trey."

That's when Whitehall Police Patrolman Andrew Mija realized he had just arrested one of the biggest rock stars in the world, the vocalist/guitar player of the former jam band Phish.

Anastasio was charged Friday with misdemeanor drug possession, driving while under the influence of drugs and aggravated unlicensed operation after a 3:30 a.m. traffic stop in the village of Whitehall.

Whitehall Police Chief Richard LaChapelle said Mija pulled Anastasio over for veering left of the double yellow line on Poultney Street, and suspected he was intoxicated. The singer/guitar player was traveling alone in a black 2004 Audi sedan and told police he was headed to Burlington, Vt.

He failed field sobriety tests, and was found to have a bottle that contained three different types of prescription drugs, including two powerful painkillers, none of which he had a prescription for, LaChapelle said.

He also told police he had smoked hashish and taken prescription drugs before he was pulled over, the chief said.

His license was suspended for not answering a 1998 speeding ticket in the town of Chester, officials said.

Anastasio, 42, who gave police an address in Richmond, Vt., was pulled over as he headed toward Vermont, the chief said. Mija spotted the car crossing into the other lane, and Anastasio pulled over promptly.

Mija suspected he was intoxicated, and Anastasio failed field sobriety tests, though LaChapelle said he did not know what tests were performed.

"He (Mija) couldn't smell alcohol and he had him do a (breath) test and it was negative," LaChapelle said.

A prescription bottle containing about 60 prescription pills of the painkillers Percocet and hydrocodone and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax was found, but he told police he did not have prescriptions for them, the chief said.

LaChapelle said a felony drug possession charge could be brought, based on the amount of pills. He said whether the charge is upgraded will be up to the Washington County district attorney's office.

District Attorney Kevin Kortright was not available for comment Friday.

LaChapelle said Anastasio also gave a urine sample that will be tested for the presence of drugs.

The chief said Anastasio was "very remorseful" and accomodating to police.

"He's a real nice guy," LaChapelle said. "He said 'You know what, I've got a problem and I've got to take care of it. Everything happens for a reason.'"

The license suspension occurred for an August 1998 speeding ticket in the town of Chester, officials said. He was ticketed for driving 84 mph in a 65 mph zone, but did not respond to the ticket so his license was suspended.

He was released to a friend pending a court appearance on Jan. 10. The charges are punishable by up to a year in Washington County Jail.

He and three acquaintances picked up his car about 10:30 a.m. Friday at Dudley Towing, the Route 4 towing company where it was taken earlier in the day. All drove separate cars, she said.

Tonya Dudley, whose family runs Dudley Towing, said Anastasio got behind the wheel and drove off after paying the $80 towing fee.

She said she did not know who he was until told by a reporter, whose visit to the towing company came about 10 minutes after Anastasio had departed. She said she also did not know he didn't have a driver's license.

"I can't believe it," she said.

Anastasio and his former bandmates in Phish are originally from Vermont. The band broke up in 2004, and Anastasio has performed solo since then.

Efforts to reach him Friday were unsuccessful.


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