UPDATE 2-Ex-Commerce chief Bryson won't face charges over car crashes

Tue Jul 3, 2012 6:40pm EDT

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES, July 3 (Reuters) - Prosecutors declined to charge former U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson on Tuesday over his role in two Los Angeles-area car crashes on the same day in June after blood tests showed he had only low levels of a sleep aid in his system at the time.

Bryson was found unconscious behind the wheel of his Lexus

on June 9 after he twice crashed into the same car in San Gabriel, California, left the scene of that accident and later collided with a Honda Accord in nearby Rosemead.

The 68-year-old former energy company executive, who regained consciousness at the scene and was treated at a hospital, resigned in a letter to President Barack Obama less than two weeks later, citing a seizure he said he had suffered on that day.

Bryson had therapeutic levels of the prescription drug Ambien in his system at the time, but forensic technicians were unable to determine if the medication played a role in the crashes, a Los Angeles County prosecutor said in a document explaining the decision not to charge him.

Deputy District Attorney Deborah Kass said the ex-cabinet official appeared "disoriented" both at the scene and in the hospital and was treated by the admitting doctor and a neurologist. Toxicology tests turned up no alcohol or controlled substances.

"Both treating doctors agree that suspect was suffering from confusion following a seizure and crashed as a result," Kass wrote in the report.

"Based on doctors' opinions, there is insufficient evidence to show knowing failure to provide personal information for hit and run," she said. "Further, based on blood test and medical condition, there is insufficient evidence to prove driving under the influence."

San Gabriel police had submitted their case against Bryson to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office on Monday, recommending that he be charged with felony hit and run for leaving the scene of the first crash.

A police spokesman declined to specify the evidence cited against Bryson, but said detectives had included the toxicology tests and his medical records in the file they gave to prosecutors.

Bryson, who had run the Commerce department for less than a year at the time of the accidents, had been alone in his car and authorities had initially said there was no indication alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions.

He took and passed a breath-based alcohol test at the site of the second collision, police said.

Passengers in the other cars had no major injuries, but the incident raised questions about his health and leadership as Obama courts business leaders in his bid to win a second term in November.

Bryson is a former chief executive of Edison International , a public utility holding company headquartered in Rosemead, California. He had served as Obama's secretary of commerce since October 2011.

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