Eye On Boise

Sheriff says no inmates diagnosed with concussion; McGee mum on medical records

Neither Sen. John McGee nor his lawyer has responded to requests to release medical records backing up his lawyer's claim in court that a concussion contributed to his bizarre behavior before a Father's Day drunken driving arrest, the Associated Press reports. Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney issued a statement saying no inmate "reported or was diagnosed with a concussion" during the time that McGee was jailed, and that all inmates booked into the jail are screened by a medical professional and provided appropriate treatment. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
 

McGee won't provide records after concussion claim

By 
JOHN MILLER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Republican lawmaker is refusing to release medical records he's relying on to help rehabilitate his public image following a drunken driving arrest last month.

Neither Senate Majority Caucus Chair John McGee nor his lawyer, Scott McKay, responded to Associated Press requests for records underpinning their contention that not just alcohol, but a concussion, led to the June 19 incident.

McGee pleaded guilty to drunken driving last week. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop a felony stemming from him taking a SUV that didn't belong to him.

At sentencing, McKay contended that McGee's unusual behavior — witnesses said he appeared to be hallucinating — resulted from him getting drunk, striking his head and suffering a head injury.

Ada County sheriff's officials said Tuesday they would have provided appropriate treatment for any prisoner for a suspected concussion, not only for the inmate's welfare, but also to protect the law enforcement agency from liability. The weekend of McGee's arrest, however, they say that wasn't necessary.

"All inmates booked into the Ada County Jail are screened by a medical professional and provided with appropriate medical treatment for injuries observed by medical staff or reported by the inmate," Sheriff Gary Raney said in a statement. "Between June 18 and June 21, 2011, no inmate in the Ada County Jail reported or was diagnosed with a concussion or other closed head injury."

On Friday, a contrite McGee choked back tears while pleading guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol. He received a sentence that includes a $1,000 fine, 24 hours of community service and mandated alcohol counseling.

The 38-year-old lawmaker from Caldwell said he'd been drinking at a golf tournament with his brother in Boise hours before he took an SUV attached to a cargo trailer from the home of a stranger, got stuck in a yard just down the street, then fell asleep in the back seat.

At the scene, law enforcement said his behavior was unusual, with McGee telling them he was headed to Jackpot, Nev., a gambling hotspot on the Idaho-Nevada border.

During Friday's hearing, however, McKay also sought to explain that McGee didn't just go on a wild drunken spree. A respected neurologist, McKay told Ada County Magistrate Judge James Cawthon, had concluded McGee suffered a concussion during a fall before his arrest, leading to actions "so far out of character." McKay said he had photos documenting the injury.

Later in the day, McKay revised his statement, saying McGee "likely sustained a concussion."

Just how the neurologist arrived at that conclusion — or the neurologist's identity — wasn't available, since McGee and McKay wouldn't provide records to back up their contention.

Dan Norris, the special prosecutor from Oregon who handled the case, said he saw evidence that McGee had, in fact, sustained a head wound prior to his arrest.

Norris declined to provide specifics, citing confidentiality concerns, but said the injury was an insignificant factor in his agreement to drop the felony charge. More important was the desire of the victims, who had already received apologies and been compensated by McGee for property damage, to put this behind them.

"They didn't want the unwanted attention," Norris told The Associated Press. "Both of the victims were very pleased, and that guides me more than any of the other factors."

House Minority Leader John Rusche, who is a physician, said concussion victims sometimes suffer from seizures or intracranial bleeding, making prompt treatment necessary.

"If he did indeed have a concussion, then the sheriff's department ought to review medical protocol," the Lewiston Democrat said, adding that only McGee can decide if he should release his medical records.
"I don't believe that because you are an elected public official you lose your right to medical privacy," he said.

Still, he added, "when you assert that right to medical privacy, there's a consequence: That is, people may feel you are not being open about what happened."

In a statement following his sentencing, McGee pledged to re-earn trust he lost "through my actions and continued public service." He faces a test in the 2012 Republican primary election next May.

Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Brent Hill said he's confident that McGee had provided sufficient information to the judge and prosecutor, including about his head injury and its role his June 19 behavior, for them to resolve the case appropriately.

"Does it bother me? No. I have a great deal of confidence in the judicial system and the fact they didn't feel justified in pursuing that (the felony)," Hill said. "I'm not going to tell him how to go about regaining the trust of his constituents and of the public."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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