TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – One of the most powerful legislators in the Kansas Legislature was charged Friday with driving under the influence and a felony for attempting to elude police while speeding the wrong way on the roads of Topeka.
Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop faces five criminal charges, including the felony charge, the DUI misdemeanor charge and the reckless driving misdemeanor charge. The Wichita Republican turned himself in at the local jail Friday night and his bond was set at $ 5,000.
Mike Kagay, the Republican district attorney in Shawnee County, announced the charges, stemming from Suellentrop’s arrest early in the morning of last week on Interstate 70, a few blocks east of Statehouse.
Suellentrop is the second-highest leadership position in the state Senate, with the majority leader deciding which proposals are debated each day. Suellentrop announced last week that he would step away from most of the Majority Leader’s duties until matters related to his arrest are resolved.
The Senate’s top leader, President Ty Masterson, and its No. 3 leader, Vice President Rick Wilborn, both Republicans, issued a joint statement saying they are talking to Republican senators “about how to proceed in the most effective manner.”
“We are thankful that no one was hurt,” they said, “and we continue to pray for Gene and his family.”
Suellentrop did not return a message seeking comment Friday night. His attorney, Tom Lemon, also did not return a phone message.
Suellentrop was arrested around 1 a.m. on March 16 by the Capitol Police Division of the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Radio recordings from law enforcement agencies and 911 calls issued by the local sheriff’s department in response to an open records request showed multiple people reporting that Suellentrop’s white SUV was traveling the wrong way on nearby I-470. from an exit south of Topeka. That highway circles the west side of Topeka and connects to I-70, which runs through the northern half of the city.
“They almost hit me, but I’m fine. I’m good. They’re not close to me, but they’re going the wrong way, ”said a person who called 911.“ I mean, they weren’t driving recklessly, I’m not trying to say they’re driving recklessly, but they were in the lane. wrong, and it’s just that they found me coming up the entrance ramp and freaked out of me. “
Kagay said in a news release that Suellentrop was the sole occupant of the van and that a patrolman initiated a “tactical vehicle intervention” to stop him on I-70 as he was driving eastbound in the westbound lanes. Radio recordings from law enforcement agencies indicated that the policeman placed “stop sticks”, which deflate the tires of a vehicle.
Law enforcement recordings show that Suellentrop drove for at least 11 minutes.
“He almost hit me,” an officer reported.
Suellentrop was booked into the local jail after his arrest, but a judge released him hours later, saying the arrest report did not contain the information necessary to detain him. The patrol’s attorney general said Thursday he did not have a document on the arrest that he could make public.
The charge of attempting to flee from law enforcement is a felony that can be punishable by five to seven months in prison for a first-time offender, although the presumed sentence is one year of probation. The DUI charge is punishable by at least 48 hours in jail or 100 hours of public service. The reckless driving charge is punishable by between five and 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $ 500.
The two remaining charges brought against Suellentrop are traffic violations, speeding, and driving in the wrong direction on a divided highway.
Suellentrop, 69, owns a business that was appointed to fill a vacancy in the Kansas House in 2009. Voters elected him to the Senate in 2016 and reelected him last year. His fellow Republicans elected him Majority Leader in December.
His public duties during the daily Senate sessions, such as asking senators to start a debate, requesting that they suspend the session, and making announcements about the GOP’s plans, are currently being handled by Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley. , a Republican from Winfield.
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