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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sirens & Gavels

King County assessor to step down over prosecution

King County's assessor will step down shortly before he is sentenced next month for driving drunk.

The AP version of the latest developments in this story can be found within the full version of this posting.

SEATTLE (AP) — King County Assessor Scott Noble pleaded guilty Wednesday to vehicular assault for a wrong-way drunken driving crash on Interstate 5, and gave notice that he will resign before being sentenced.

In exchange for the plea in King County Superior Court, lawyers from the state attorney general's office dropped a second vehicular assault charge. They are recommending a nine-month jail term, the top of the standard range, when he is sentenced June 19, plus restitution to his victims, a $1,000 fine and other fees.

The agreement spares Noble, 58, the possibility of prison, which he could have faced had he been convicted of both charges.

The attorney general's office handled the prosecution because the county prosecutor's office represents Noble's office in legal matters.

Earlier in the day, Noble, a Democrat, wrote County Council Chairman Dow Constantine that he will resign from the job he has held for 16 years shortly before he is sentenced. Under state law, elected officials lose their positions upon sentencing for a felony.

"I take personal responsibility and accept personal accountability for my actions," Noble wrote. "I apologize to the victims, the citizens of King County, the County Council and the staff of the Department of Assessments."

Noble's deputy, Rich Medved, is expected to initially take over the agency, which handles business and residential property tax assessments in the state's most populous county. After an interim successor is chosen by the County Council, voters will elect a new assessor in November to fill the remainder of the term, which runs through 2011.

Noble and two women were seriously injured in the Jan. 18 head-on collision. Investigators found he had tried to make a U-turn on the freeway in Federal Way, a suburb between Seattle and Tacoma. According to the State Patrol, blood drawn from Noble at the scene registered an alcohol level of 0.22 percent, nearly three times the 0.08 threshold for drunken driving.

"He had bloodshot watery eyes along with a strong obvious odor of intoxicants," a patrol detective wrote, adding that Noble began crying and asked about injuries to the other driver and her passenger.

Noble admitted he had been drinking red wine but couldn't recall how much, according to the patrol report.

Noble declined to answer questions from reporters after the hearing.

"He still has significant health issues. He's working through the emotional issues, the accountability and responsibility issues," his attorney, John W. Wolfe, told reporters outside the courtroom.

David Wasson oversees coverage of politics and state and local government and assists with editing on the City Desk.

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