Embattled television personality Andrew O’Keefe has revealed he admitted to driving with meth in his system to escape possible delays in court after escaping conviction.
The former Deal or No Deal host pleaded guilty on Tuesday at Downing Centre Local Court to driving with an illicit drug in his system on January 20 in the affluent Sydney suburb of Point Piper.
The 51-year-old came to the attention of police after he was spotted driving his Mercedes C200 sedan with the brake lights on along Wunulla Rd shortly after midnight.
A roadside breath test returned a positive result for methamphetamine before Mr O’Keefe was taken to Waverly police station for a secondary test, which was negative.
During sentencing, magistrate Miranda Moody said O'Keefe had since returned negative screenings for illicit drugs and was being treated by a psychiatrist and psychologist.
“To his credit, he's clearly had some issues with illicit drug use and I've been provided material to his use of drugs or lack thereof,” Ms Moody told the court.
“There have been none detected for some time. I've also been provided a report by a psychologist and a psychiatrist. He’s engaged in treatment.
“Given the enormous amount of work Mr O’Keefe is doing in relation to his drug and health issues I'm prepared to not record a conviction.”
Ms Moody instead sentenced Mr O’Keefe to a 12-month community release order. He faced a maximum penalty of $2200 and six months disqualification from driving.
Outside court, Mr O’Keefe told members of the media he was “very pleased” with the “sensible outcome” but said he had pleaded guilty to avoid potential delays in court.
“Two positives and two negatives (tests) … such is the exigencies of the law, we had to plead guilty anyway otherwise we’d be delayed for another six months potentially,” he said.
At the time of the incident, Mr O’Keefe had been parked in a Wunulla Rd cul-de-sac but pulled away when police approached. He was the sole occupant in the car at the time.
A second oral fluid sample provided at Waverly police station tested negative but was later deemed positive after an analysis by the NSW Forensic and Analytical Science Service.
Asked about any drug taking, Mr O’Keefe told police: “I don’t use them.” He was later arrested at his Vaucluse home on April 4 following the analysis of the oral fluid.
During sentencing, Ms Moody said Mr O’Keefe’s driving record “did not assist him” but told the court he did not have any similar offences on his record.
Mr O’Keefe previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, indicating outside the court that he thought “certain things that might affect the credibility of a saliva test”.
The downfall of a TV stalwart
Mr O’Keefe began his career as an intellectual property lawyer with law firm Allens Arthur Robinson before transitioning in 2003 into TV presenting with Channel 7.
He is best known for his stint hosting TV game show Deal or No Deal, as well as a weekend hosting role on Channel 7’s morning show Sunrise.
In 2017, Mr O’Keefe announced he was stepping away from Weekend Sunrise after 12 years. The same year he was anointed a Member of the Order of Australia.
The television personality’s legal troubles began in January 2021 when he was charged by police after they alleged he grabbed a sex worker by the throat.
Later that year, the charges were withdrawn and dismissed in court. But, the finding wasn’t the end of Mr O’Keefe’s legal hassles.
Mr O’Keefe returned to court after police alleged he assaulted a woman who he was living with after becoming a close Covid contact in September 2021.
The 52-year-old pleaded not guilty to common assault, assault occasioning bodily harm, resisting police, and drug possession. He pleaded guilty to breaching an AVO.
During a hearing earlier this year, Mr O’Keefe said an argument had broken out between the pair over expletives he allegedly said to the woman’s child.
Two days later, Mr O’Keefe allegedly resisted police who had come to his home to arrest him in relation to the allegations of domestic violence and assault.
Video played before the court during the hearing allegedly showed Mr O’Keefe yelling at police before they grabbed a hold of him and pressed him against a wall.
The court was told police later found a bag of synthetic methamphetamine in a lockbox in his kitchen during a search of his home four months after the arrest.
A hearing into the assault, drug, and resisting arrest charges concluded in November, with a judgment to be handed down by magistrate Alison Viney in the next few months.
In October 2022, Mr O’Keefe left the Connect Global Residential Drug and Alcohol Centre and has since been unemployed, documents tendered to court on Tuesday reveal.
The documents further reveal insights into Mr O’Keefe’s life post-rehab, including $1000 per month he paid in rent for his home on South Head Rd in Vaucluse in Sydney’s east.
He earns about $26,000 a month in insurance payments, the documents state, and owes an amount of money to the Australian Taxation Office that he “legally could not disclose” to police.