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School official blames Davenport burglary on Ambien reaction

Wed., July 10, 2013

A Western Washington assistant school superintendent accused of burglarizing the Davenport Tower penthouse and throwing things from the roof said a negative reaction to a prescription sleep aid is to blame for his behavior.

James N. Paxinos, of the Clover Park School District in Lakewood, was staying at the Davenport in late June while attending a superintendents and principals conference.

A security guard working the night of June 25 noticed a gallon jug of cleaner falling from the hotel’s roof to the ground, according to an arrest affidavit. When the guard investigated, he also found roofing material in the street on First Avenue.

The guard watched security footage and saw Paxinos entering and leaving the building multiple times. He also found damage in offices in the building’s top floor, according to the affidavit. The guard was able to search Paxinos’ key card records and identify him.

Later that night, police contacted Paxinos in his room. Paxinos told the officer he was “very intoxicated” and unable to remember much of what he’d done that night. Paxinos’ attorney, Steve Graham, said his client had an adverse reaction to Ambien, a prescription sleep aid he was taking to treat restless leg syndrome.

That was the first time Paxinos took the medicine, Graham said, adding that Paxinos also had at least one drink that night. The medication put him in an “involuntarily intoxicated” state, court documents say.

Paxinos told police he remembered accessing the roof though he knew he wasn’t supposed to. He admitted to throwing two jugs of cleaner, rolls of roofing material and food from the roof.

Paxinos told police he climbed through a ceiling panel in the men’s bathroom on the top floor, then fell through the ceiling in another office. His behavior was all in an effort to access the Davenport roof, Graham said.

Graham said Paxinos was in a confused state when he burglarized the rooms, adding he’s represented dozens of clients who report similar reactions to Ambien.

“It’s something we see more and more of,” Graham said about Paxinos’ reaction to the medication. “It’s just kind of unpredictable, unexplainable behavior.”

Paxinos, 43, has worked at the school district for about three years, according to court documents. The Kitsap Sun reported Paxinos makes about $114,000 a year.

Spokane Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Shane Smith said Paxinos will enroll in a diversion program, which monitors low-risk offenders without formal prosecution. Smith said Paxinos has no criminal history, so the program provides him the opportunity to clean his record.

“It’s just essentially a private agency that’s keeping an eye on him,” Smith said.

Paxinos must complete 50 hours of community service and pay $1,200 to the diversion program. He is currently on paid administrative leave until the school district completes its investigation, Graham said.

A spokesman for the Davenport declined to comment on the incident.

The first paragraph of this story has been edited to correct an error.

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