TOPEKA, Kan. – One of the most powerful lawmakers in the Kansas legislature was charged on Friday with driving under the influence and a felony for trying to evade law enforcement while accelerating in the wrong direction on the Topeka highways.
Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop faces five criminal charges including the felony count, the DUI count and one reckless driving count. The Wichita Republican visited the local jail on Friday night and his bail was set at $ 5,000.
Mike Kagay, the Shawnee County Republican District Attorney, announced the charges, which stem from the early morning arrest of Suellentrop last week on Interstate 70, a few blocks east of the Statehouse .
Suellentrop holds the second highest leadership position in the state Senate, and the majority leader decides which proposals are debated each day. Suellentrop announced last week that he was stepping down from most of the majority leader’s duties until issues surrounding his arrest are resolved.
Senate Leader Speaker Ty Masterson and No. 3 Leader Vice President Rick Wilborn, both Republicans, issued a joint statement saying they were talking to GOP senators “how to do it most. effectively”.
“We are grateful that no one was hurt,” they said, “and we continue to pray for Gene and his family.”
Suellentrop did not return a message requesting comment on Friday evening. His lawyer, Tom Lemon, also did not return a phone message.
Suellentrop was arrested around 1 a.m. on March 16 by the Kansas Highway Patrol’s Capitol Police Division.
Law enforcement radio recordings and 911 calls released by the local sheriff’s department in response to a request for open cases showed that several people reported that Suellentrop’s white SUV was moving the wrong way on the road. I-470 near a south exit from Topeka. This freeway 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 fine. They’re not near me, but they’re going the wrong way, “a 911 caller said.” I mean, they weren’t driving recklessly – I’m not trying to say they were driving recklessly – but they were driving recklessly. were in the wrong lane, and they just met me on the way up the ramp and scared the shit out. of me.
Kagay said in a press release that Suellentrop was the sole occupant of the SUV and that a patroller had launched a “tactical vehicle intervention” to stop him on I-70 as he drove east in the mountains. westbound lanes. Police radio recordings indicated that the soldier had placed “stop sticks”, which deflated the tires of a vehicle.
Law enforcement records show Suellentrop drove for at least 11 minutes.
“He almost hit me,” one officer reported.
Suellentrop was held in 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 on Thursday he did not have a document on the arrest he could make public.
The charge of attempting to flee law enforcement is a felony that can be punished with five to seven months in prison for a first-time offender, although the alleged sentence is one year’s probation. The DUI charge is punished with at least 48 hours in prison or 100 hours of public service. The reckless driving charge carries a penalty of five to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $ 500.
The other two charges against Suellentrop are traffic violations, speeding and bad driving on a divided highway.
Suellentrop, 69, is a business owner who was appointed to fill a vacant position at Kansas House in 2009. Voters elected him to the Senate in 2016 and re-elected him last year. His fellow Republicans chose him as majority leader in December.
His public duties during daily Senate sessions – such as asking senators to initiate a debate, asking them to adjourn and making announcements about GOP plans – are currently handled by Deputy Majority Leader Larry Alley, a Republican from Winfield.
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