A judge has acquitted John Kitchen, former chief of Waswanipi, of a charge of drinking-and-driving.

The charge stemmed from an August 1998 incident in which Kitchen’s vehicle went off the road on Highway 113, between Desmaraisville and Waswanipi.

Kitchen was chief at the time, but didn’t run again in the community election last summer. He ran for deputy grand chief instead, but only got 4 percent of the vote.

Kitchen had spent the evening at the bar Le Splendide in Desmaraisville, which has since burned down.

Witnesses at the trial, which took place in Senneterre on November 10, disagreed on whether Kitchen was drunk at the time he left the bar at closing time.

The defense admitted he consumed four or five beers at the bar, and fell asleep around 11 p.m. But the defense argued that he was under the effect of medicine. By the time a bar employee woke him up at 3 a.m., the alcohol had lost its effect, the defense claimed.

The defense also suggested the accident happened because Kitchen’s tire blew out, not because of alcohol.

The judge accepted the defense’s arguments, even going so far as questioning the motives of a witness who produced photos of Kitchen asleep in the bar.

“There was doubt about whether he was drunk,” said Crown prosecutor Richard Duchesneau, who handled the case.

Duchesneau praised the judge’s decision, saying the evidence was conflicting.

Jacques Ladouceur, Kitchen’s Val d’Or-based defense lawyer, said the ex-chief was happy with the decision: “He was satisfied we won. I won’t say he was disappointed.”