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Judge sends former Sen. McGee directly to jail, revokes withheld judgment

An Ada County judge today sent former Idaho Sen. John McGee straight to jail, revoking his withheld judgment for a 2011 DUI and imposing another six-month jail term for a disturbing the peace charge related to allegations that McGee sexually harassed a Senate staffer. Magistrate Judge James Cawthon  declined to follow a plea agreement worked out between prosecutors and McGee's attorney that would have required McGee to serve just five days of jail time; instead, McGee, 39, must serve 90 days, the first half of that with no option for work-release or community service.

When McGee's attorney, Scott McKay, asked the judge if his client could have seven days to say goodbye to his family and turn himself in to serve the sentence, the judge responded, “The court will order the execution of the sentence at this time.” McGee was taken into custody at the close of his sentencing hearing. His wife, Hanna, who along with his parents, brother and church pastor accompanied McGee to the hearing, left the courtroom in tears.

Cawthon also sentenced McGee to three years of supervised probation, counseling, restitution and court costs. “What the court's going to impose here I think sends a message in terms of general deterrence,” Cawthon told McGee. “I hope it reflects … the serious nature of the offense.”

McGee was on probation for a 2011 DUI conviction - in which he received a withheld judgment and more serious charges of stealing and damaging a vehicle were dismissed - when he allegedly sexually harassed a 25-year-old female Senate staffer in February. After an investigation, a criminal charge, a misdemeanor charge of disturbing the peace, was filed against McGee, along with a charge of violating his probation. “This isn't just disturbing the peace,” the judge told him today. “You weren't playing music too loud. … Whatever this is, it's sexual in nature.” He said, “I don't know if you just lost your moral compass because of the positions you had.” He called it “amazing” that McGee would risk his marriage, his family and his career a second time while still on probation for the first crime.

He also said he sentenced McGee on the DUI just as he would any other first-time DUI offender. But he said, “This new offense happened … in your role as an Idaho state senator. It happened at the Capitol.” He said he was treating McGee like any other public servant who “misbehaves to the level of committing criminal offenses in the course of their public service.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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