WOODHAVEN, Mich. – A 9-year-old girl cried Tuesday as she explained how she drove a full-size van in suburban Detroit while her father sat in the passenger seat after a night of drinking whiskey.
The girl said her dad, Shawn Weimer, asked her if she wanted to drive in the wee hours of Oct. 8.
"I said yeah but I'd be a little scared," she said.
Weimer, 39, was charged with child abuse after police in Brownstown Township stopped the van and found the girl behind the wheel. A judge will decide Nov. 15 whether he will stand trial.
The girl cried throughout her brief testimony. Judge Michael McNally tried to calm her and offered a soft drink before calling a recess.
Weimer sat at the defense table with his hands pressed together in front of his face.
His daughter testified that he drank half of a bottle of whiskey and threw the rest away earlier that night.
"Was your dad drunk?" assistant prosecutor Keisha Glenn asked.
"He told me he was," the girl replied.
The judge listened to a 911 call and also watched a portion of a surveillance video from a gas station where Weimer bragged about his daughter's driving skills while she munched on a candy apple.
"Nine years old -- 9," Weimer said in the gas station. "We're leaving and she's driving. I'm drunk."
Charles Girardot, a customer at the gas station, decided to call 911 and follow the van. He said the girl never swerved, stayed in her lane and even used turn signals before a police officer stopped her.
"She's driving pretty good. I can't believe it," Girardot told a 911 dispatcher.
McNally delayed his decision so defense attorney David Steingold could file objections to the felony child abuse charge. Steingold acknowledged to reporters that a 9-year-old can't legally drive in Michigan but said that's not the issue.
To send Weimer to trial, the prosecutor must persuade the judge that his actions were likely to cause death or serious injury to his daughter.
"Possible, yes. Likely, no," Steingold said after the hearing. "This young girl was very proficient" at driving small ATVs and mini motorcycles.
Glenn declined to comment.