BOISE – A judge sent former Idaho Sen. John McGee straight to jail Tuesday, revoking his withheld judgment for a 2011 DUI conviction and imposing another six-month jail term for a disturbing the peace charge stemming from harassment of a Senate staffer.
“This isn’t just disturbing the peace,” 4th District Magistrate Judge James Cawthon told McGee. “You weren’t playing music too loud. … Whatever this is, it’s sexual in nature.”
Cawthon declined to follow a plea agreement between prosecutors and McGee’s attorney that would have required McGee to serve just five days of jail time. Instead, McGee, the former fourth-ranking member of the Idaho Senate GOP caucus, pleaded guilty and must serve 90 days, the first half of that with no option for work-release or community service.
“I don’t know if you just lost your moral compass because of the positions you had,” the judge told the former lawmaker. 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, a bizarre Father’s Day incident in 2011 that resulted in a drunken driving conviction.
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, 39, was handcuffed and taken into custody at the close of his sentencing hearing. His wife, Hanna, who along with his parents, brother and 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 the 2011 DUI conviction, in which he received a withheld judgment and more serious charges of stealing and damaging a vehicle were dismissed, when he sexually harassed a 25-year-old female Senate staffer in February. Deputy Ada County prosecutor Jean Fisher told the court that McGee called the staffer “into his office, locked the door and demanded that she engage in graphic sexual conduct.” The victim escaped, but when she was afraid to report McGee, he continued a “barrage of disturbing and offensive sexual innuendo,” Fisher said.
After an investigation, a criminal charge of disturbing the peace was filed against McGee, along with a charge of violating his probation.
Cawthon told McGee he had sentenced him 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.”
McGee, R-Caldwell, was the Idaho Senate Republican caucus chairman when the allegations surfaced in February and he resigned his seat.