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Spokane

Officer legally drunk in crash

Thu., March 4, 2010, midnight

Charges don’t change lieutenant’s work status

A Spokane County Sheriff’s lieutenant arrested after an early-morning rollover crash was legally drunk when he was driving, according to newly filed court documents.

Stephen P. Jones, 53, was charged this week with drunken driving for the Jan. 8 crash in Liberty Lake. A summons filed Wednesday gives him 14 days to appear in court or an arrest warrant will be issued.

Blood tests put Jones’ blood-alcohol content at .17, more than twice the legal limit for driving.

Jones, a 25-year sheriff’s office veteran who makes $108,000, remains in an administrative position doing special projects, as well as supervising the sheriff’s reserve program, Explorers program and school resource deputies, said sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan.

“His status with the agency remains unchanged because he’s not in the capacity where he would pass judgment on whether to arrest someone or not arrest someone,” Reagan said.

An internal investigation into whether Jones violated office policy is ongoing.

“There’s a policy about not doing anything that might bring discredit to the sheriff’s office,” Reagan said. “It may be that we have to wait until the final outcome of the criminal investigation to determine if there was a policy violation.”

Jones was alone when he struck a power pole and rolled his 2000 Lincoln Navigator near Third Avenue and Molter Road Jan. 8 about 1:30 a.m.

A sheriff’s deputy called Washington State Patrol after realizing the driver was a sheriff’s office employee, according to court documents.

WSP Trooper Mark Baker said Jones smelled faintly of alcohol and had an injury above his right eye. Jones said his legs were sore and was taken to an emergency room in an ambulance.

“Mr. Jones was apologetic about the circumstances but did not offer any information and he didn’t ask any questions,” according to court documents.

Former District Court Commissioner Robert Seines accompanied Jones to the emergency room, where Jones declined to answer police questions.

Seines said Wednesday he is not representing Jones on the case and learned of the crash because it occurred outside his Liberty Lake home.

Sheriff’s policy calls for employees to be suspended for a week after a first-time drunken driving offense, then fired after a second. But a new state law requiring first-time offenders to drive with an ignition interlock device on their cars could affect that. That’s still under review.



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