Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller on state Sen. John McGee's guilty plea to DUI in a plea deal today, which came as he chocked back tears and his lawyers blamed his erratic behavior on a concussion they say impaired his judgment. McGee, 38, who represents Caldwell and is the Republican Senate Caucus Chairman, was contrite Friday and apologized for his actions. “It's something I'll remember and something that I'll learn from the rest of my life. I'm truly sorry. I take full responsibility for my actions that evening,” said McGee. “Those actions are inconsistent with what I believe in and who I am.”
McGee pleads guilty to DUI in deal with prosecutor
By JOHN MILLER, Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Republican Sen. John McGee choked back tears after pleading guilty Friday to driving under the influence of alcohol, part of a plea agreement that came as his lawyers blamed his erratic behavior on a concussion they say impaired his judgment.
In return for McGee's guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a felony count of taking a vehicle without the owner's permission and causing more than $1,000 in damage in a deal that will likely allow him to avoid any more time behind bars.
McGee, 38, who represents Caldwell and is the Republican Senate Caucus Chairman, was contrite Friday and apologized for his actions.
“It's something I'll remember and something that I'll learn from the rest of my life. I'm truly sorry. I take full responsibility for my actions that evening,” said McGee. “Those actions are inconsistent with what I believe in and who I am.”
The judge approved the terms of the plea agreement, announced during a 4th District Court appearance originally planned as the preliminary hearing.
McGee received a withheld judgment, was fined $1,000 and sentenced to 180 days in jail, with 175 days suspended. He was given credit for two days already spent in jail and will be allowed to serve 24 hours of community service to account for the remaining three days of jail time. He'll also have to undergo alcohol counseling, will have his driver's license suspended for at least 30 days and must participate in a DUI victims panel.
The withheld judgment will allow McGee to have the conviction removed from his record if he completes terms of his sentence and avoids similar legal problems for a period set by the courts.
The four-term senator from Canyon County, a father of two young children, was arrested June 19 after police say he took an SUV attached to a cargo trailer from the southwest Boise home of a stranger and got it stuck in a yard just down the street, causing several thousand dollars in damage.
The homeowners found McGee sleeping in the back seat of the SUV and called police, and a breath test found his blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit in Idaho.
Defense attorney Scott McKay told the judge that McGee has already paid restitution to the owners of the vehicle and sent letters of apology.
McKay also told the judge that McGee drank too much alcohol at a golf tournament with his brother the night of his arrest, then later fell and banged his head and likely suffered a concussion. The neighbors who found him said he appeared to have been hallucinating.
“Sen. McGee's behavior after leaving the golf course was affected by factors beyond the consumption of alcohol,” McKay said in a statement after the hearing. “He fell after leaving the golf course as documented by bruising and cuts on his knee and a significant bump and laceration on his head. Sen. McGee has been examined by a respected neurologist who has concluded that as a result of this fall, he likely sustained a concussion prior to the events leading to his arrest.”
The Associated Press requested medical records to document McGee's injuries. McKay's office didn't immediately respond to the request.
Ada County Magistrate Judge James Cawthon agreed to the plea deal, then spoke directly to McGee, telling him that while he had “a long road back,” his acceptance of responsibility for his behavior was a first step.
McGee was accompanied into the courtroom by his wife, Hanna, and a fellow Republican senator from Canyon County, Patti Anne Lodge, of Huston. McGee shook hands with reporters when he arrived but didn't say anything as he departed the courthouse. During the hearing, he told the judge he would eventually try to explain to his young daughter, Madalyn and son, Maxwell, what happened June 19 and where he erred as well as what he's learned in the two weeks since the incident.
McGee said in addition to lessons about taking responsibility, he's also learned about kindness — from those who have stepped forward to support his family during a difficult period.
McGee, who works as a marketing director for a local hospital, is also chairman of the board of the College of Idaho.
He didn't immediately address his political future, though other Idaho lawmakers have continued their careers in public office after drunken driving convictions, most notably Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepaei. Without giving specifics, McGee did say he will continue in the public eye as he seeks to re-earn the trust of people he's disappointed.
“I pledge to do so through my actions and continued public service,” he said in a statement.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.