June 20, 2011 in Idaho

McGee ‘looking for promised land’ before arrest

Staff and wire reports
 

McGee
(Full-size photo)

BOISE, Idaho (AP)—The lawyer for an Idaho state senator accused of taking an SUV and trailer from a stranger’s home in Boise and driving the vehicle while drunk said Monday there are “medical explanations” for his client’s behavior.

Idaho Senate Republican Caucus Chairman John McGee of Caldwell was arraigned in Idaho’s 4th District Court on charges of misdemeanor drunken driving and taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, causing more than $1,000 damage, a felony.

McGee, 38, was arrested early Sunday after police say he took a Ford Excursion and cargo trailer from the southwest Boise home of a “complete stranger” and got it stuck in a yard just down the street. A breath test showed the four-term lawmaker’s blood-alcohol content was nearly twice the legal limit, police said.

KTVB-TV in Boise reported that police said McGee was drinking at a golf course on Saturday night, then left on foot before being found hours later in the Excursion after he was spotted by neighborhood residents.

Joe Carleton, owner of the home in whose yard McGee got the SUV stuck, told KIVI-TV, “He was in the back seat and I asked him what he was doing. He said, ‘I’m looking for the Promised Land.’ I said ‘You’re in the wrong land – this is not the Promised Land.’ Then he saw my wife in the window with a robe on and he says, ‘There’s an angel.’ I called 911 right away.”

Residents told the two TV stations that McGee was barefoot, had cuts on his legs and seemed dazed.

McGee made his first court appearance via video from jail. During the brief hearing, his attorney said there are “medical explanations” for McGee’s actions that would negate any criminal liability in the case. He declined to elaborate.

“To say that the criminal charges are out of character for Senator McGee, I don’t think that is an understatement,” attorney Scott McKay said in court.

McGee’s bond was set at $5,000 and he was released from the Ada County Jail shortly after his arraignment.

Police say McGee took the SUV and trailer, then got them stuck in a yard two houses down while trying to back up. He was not injured, police said.

McGee told officers he was on his way to Jackpot, Nev., Lt. Kody Aldrich said Sunday. A breath test found his blood-alcohol content was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit in Idaho, authorities allege.

The owner of the sport utility vehicle told authorities he typically leaves the keys in the steering column and the doors unlocked. The trailer and SUV sustained $2,100 in damage, according to court documents.

McGee’s attorney argued for bond to be set at $1,000 and highlighted McGee’s service to the community and role as a husband and father of two young children.

“Senator McGee spent Father’s Day in jail,” McKay said.

McGee’s wife, Hanna, attended the brief hearing. She declined to speak with reporters as she left with family.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for July 1.

In 2006, McGee was named the Idaho Young Republican of the Year and Republican Legislator of the Year. The senator from District 10 represents Caldwell and is head of the Canyon County GOP. He serves on the three Legislative committees: local government and taxation, state affairs, and transportation. He also works as marketing director for West Valley Medical Center.

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