Villagers’ daughter gets off easy after drunken swimsuit arrest at restaurant

Meridith Manning

A Villages couple’s daughter got off easy after she was arrested while wearing a blue bathing suit at a popular local restaurant.

Meridith Manning, 46, who lives with her parents at 102 Costa Mesa Drive in the Village of La Zamora, was arrested wearing only a one-piece blue bathing suit at Carrabba’s Italian Grill at Rolling Acres Plaza.

Last week in Lake County Court, Manning entered a plea of no contest to a reduced charge of reckless driving, bargained down from an original charge of driving under the influence.

She has been sentenced to 12 months probation, but is eligible to have her probation terminated after six months if she lives up to terms of the agreement reached in court last week. She has been ordered to have an alcohol evaluation, attend DUI school and take part in a victim awareness program. She will also lose her driver’s license for six months.

Manning was represented by attorney J. Scott Herman, who has become well-known in The Villages after representing a line dancer who was accused of punching another woman at the square, an 85-year-old Villager who offered a woman $20 to allow him to fondle her breasts at a Publix, and a Village of Hillsborough man arrested in a seat-saving incident involving a 72-year-old woman at Spanish Springs Town Square.

At the time of Manning’s arrest, her eyes were watery and bloodshot and she had “the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating” from her, according to an arrest report from the Lady Lake Police Department.

Police asked the New York native to participate in field sobriety exercises, but she said she would only do so if her lawyer was present. Manning then asked if she could call her mother or “resolve this in another way.” Manning refused to provide a breath sample without a lawyer present. An empty bottle of Hydrocodone was found in the center console of her SUV.

Manning had been ticketed on a charge of careless driving after an accident at 5:04 a.m. Aug. 9 on U.S. Hwy. 27/441 near Griffin View Drive. She had been attempting a U-turn into right-of-way traffic when the crash occurred.