It’s uncanny what money and influence can accomplish. Take the case of Alice L. Walton, the Texas billionaire, Wal-Mart heir and philanthropist who founded the attractive and popular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark.
On Oct. 7, 2011, a few weeks before the museum’s opening, a Texas state trooper pulled Walton over as she headed home from a party celebrating her 62nd birthday in Fort Worth. She refused a breath test and was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. She spent about nine hours in jail, suffered the humility of an Internet posting of her mug shot, which went viral, and later expressed contrition.
Fast forward to 2013: The highway patrolman is suspended for an undisclosed infraction. He thus is unavailable to testify against Walton, and in September, closing in on a two-year expiration of a statute of limitations, the case is dropped. Last week, Walton’s lawyers successfully got the record expunged.
If this had been an isolated incident, few might have taken notice. But Walton’s record on the road is a bit alarming.
According to law enforcement records and published accounts — I profiled Walton, without her help, for The Star in 2006 — she once spent many months hospitalized after a Jeep accident in Mexico; in 1998 she racked up a DUI charge in Springdale, Ark., mouthed off to the arresting officer and paid a fine; and while driving another day on an Arkansas highway she struck and killed a pedestrian — though she was neither blamed nor charged in that fatal incident.
Yes, her record is now clean in Texas. But surely, by now, Walton has accumulated the means and the sense to hire a driver.