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March 30, 2008

Rocker's Local Ties Go Beyond a DUI

Bon Jovi lead guitarist and Laguna Beach resident Richie Sambora was arrested late Tuesday for suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Within an hour of his 4 a.m. release, celebrity-gossip Internet sites broke the story of his arrest online. Police Sgt. Jason Kravetz's phone kept ringing Wednesday as he fielded calls from news organizations worldwide.

"Richie has been fighting an alcohol problem for sometime," according to his neighbor and friend Tony Ciabattoni who drove Sambora home early Wednesday.

Ciabattoni and Sambora were the founders of Legacy Laguna, a charitable organization that aids people in need, including covering the funeral expenses of a hometown hero, Joey Masella. The 14-year-old died in 2006 from cancer after battling a rare degenerative skin disease since birth, while inspiring those he encountered by his courageous determination.

Police said the results of a blood test to analyze Sambora's blood alcohol level may not be known for up to 10 days. In the meantime, police intend to investigate the possibility of charging the 48-year-old rocker with felony child endangerment because of two children in the car, one of them Sambora's daughter with actress Heather Locklear.

Sambora has lived in Laguna Beach for more than ten years and Ciabattoni recently joined his friend as Bon Jovi toured in Asia. "He never took a drink on that entire tour."

Ciabattoni said, "he went through a detox program last June and rehab in Utah in September. I know for a fact that Tuesday evening was the first time he had anything to drink since last June. He had a lapse and I know he will make sure it doesn't happen again. He'll have plenty of support in that endeavor."

Much of the support Sambora can expect will come from fellow band members, Ciabattoni said. "Jon [Bon Jovi] called Richie at 8 a.m. and talked with me as well. He made it clear that all he cared about was Richie's wellbeing. He asked Richie if the band ought to cancel upcoming tour dates but Richie said no. All of the band members called."

Bon Jovi is scheduled to play in Anaheim and Los Angeles early next month. The band plans to make Laguna Beach its base, according to Ciabattoni.

Sambora was arrested around 11 p.m. after a patrol officerobserved his black Hummer having difficultytraversing along Glenneyre at the stop sign near the library. He was stopped by the officerat Oak Street where field sobriety tests were conducted. He allegedly failed and was taken into custody and transported to city jail.

Sambora's 10-year-old daughter and his niece, a high school senior, were in the Hummer along with an adult female identified only as Sambora's current girlfriend.

Ciabattoni said, "Richie and the girls ate at Ruby's and then went downtown to the movies. I've spoken to all of them and they didn't see him have a drink. Richie told me he had been dealing with pressures on a personal level and just decided to drink before they went out. I was called as soon as the girls got home."

Sambora is a devoted father, who takes his daughter to school and helps her with her homework and is concerned she will suffer ridicule from his mistake, Ciabattoni said.

Ciabattoni introduced Sambora to the Masella family, who shared with him a video from an El Morro talent show with Joey lip-synching the Bon Jovi classic, "It's My Life."

"Richie fell in love with Joey as soon as they met," Ciabattoni said.

"Richie made Joey and all of us comfortable right away," the boy's mother, Laurie Masella, said this week. "Joey was nervous until Richie told him, 'I'm just like you Joey. Please don't think of me any other way.' Joey was crazy about him and he is a very giving and down to earth good-hearted person."

Sambora took Joey and his family to a Bon Jovi concert by limousine in Anaheim, where they were all provided backstage passes and Joey met all of his favorite band's members.

"During the concert, Richie called Joey onstage and introduced him to the audience. The band then dedicated 'It's My Life' to Joey. It was a highlight of his short life."

Posted by riesambo at March 30, 2008 08:31 PM