Florida priest arrested and charged with drunk driving, officers say

Joseph Gates.
Joseph Gates. Lee County Corrections Department

A Sanibel Island church officially has an image problem.

Reverend Joseph Gates, 35, was arrested Saturday night on charges of drunk driving, according to Sanibel Island Police Department. This arrest comes a little over a year after fellow Saint Isabel Catholic Church pastor Father Christopher Senk was cleared of wrongdoing by the state attorney in an exploitation case according to NBC 2 WBBH-TV.

The arrest report stated that Gates, who is the priest for Saint Isabel Catholic Church, was swerving on Sanibel Captiva Road and almost hit a fire hydrant before being pulled over.

Gates immediately showed signs of being under the influence, the officer said. His speech was slurred and he dropped his wallet twice when the officer asked for his license before incorrectly presenting his bank card instead. The priest also stumbled through the sobriety test.

Although Gates admitted to having one drink, his breathalyzer test results suggest otherwise. According to the report, Gates blew 0.189 and 0.185 in subsequent tests. Florida’s legal limit is 0.08.

Gates was promptly arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence. He posted his $1000 bail Sunday afternoon.

The arrest report noted that Khristy Scheer, the church’s business manager, was riding shotgun at the time of Gates’ arrest.

Officials at Saint Isabel said they did not wish to comment on Gate’s arrest. The Diocese of Venice in Florida provided this statement:

The Diocese is aware that over the weekend, Fr. Joseph Gates was arrested for an alleged DUI, while he was returning from a personal social engagement. As the matter is pending, the Diocese will await the judicial outcome before further response.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.