WASHINGTON Nearly four years after Sen. Mike Crapo’s conviction for drunken driving, the Idaho Republican finally got a chance to see the police report in his case on Thursday.
It didn’t paint a pretty picture. It described how Crapo had struggled to walk and couldn’t even hold his head still as a police officer conducted sobriety tests on Dec. 23, 2012, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Crapo, 65, again apologized for his conduct and said reading the report “brought back all the painful memories of remorse and regret from that night.”
“I have relived it many times in my mind, and still do, wishing every time I could take it back,” he said.
Police officials and the city attorney in Alexandria had kept the report under wraps since Crapo’s arrest, citing a Virginia state law that allows prosecutors to withhold police records, even from defendants.
But after the city denied a request by McClatchy to gain access to the report under the Freedom of Information Act, Crapo intervened, asking the prosecutor who’d handled the case to release the report to him. He then shared it with McClatchy.
One irony: Had Crapo been arrested in his home state of Idaho, the public would have had access to the police report long ago under the state’s public records act.
“In Idaho, the statute is pretty clear: Our office would certainly release that,” said Paul Panther, the chief of the criminal law division for the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. He said the police record would have become a public document as soon as the case concluded: “Typically, we would release pretty much everything.”
Crapo, a third-term senator, is seeking re-election on Nov. 8. It’s his first general election since his arrest.
Crapo is favored to win easily in a state dominated by Republicans. But his Democratic opponent, Boise businessman Jerry Sturgill, has made the DUI an issue in the campaign, saying it’s relevant to “character and trust.”
“The DUI revealed a long cover-up of personal behavior inconsistent with how Sen. Crapo had presented himself as a teetotaling member of our church, one who had held high office,” Sturgill said. “As my dad taught me, if you are caught in a lie once, you may never be trusted again.”
Sturgill said that some of his supporters had tried to get the report but had been denied access.
The state law that allows prosecutors to keep police records private has long been a source of irritation for defense attorneys, who say it’s unfair.
“There’s no one worse than Virginia – we just provide minimal information to people, and I think normal people don’t know this,” said Douglas Ramseur, a Norfolk, Virginia, defense lawyer. “In places like North Carolina and Texas, they allow complete access to the prosecutor’s file of reports.”
Last year, a committee examining criminal discovery rules proposed changing the law, only to have the recommendation rejected by the Virginia Supreme Court. The court offered no explanation for keeping the law intact.
“I think it’s really only there because it’s the way things have always been done around here,” said Ramseur, who served on the Special Committee on Criminal Discovery Rules. “There is a fear of the unknown. . . . There’s an enormous public transparency issue that’s at play here.”
Crapo paid a $250 fine and had his driver’s license suspended for a year after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor first-offense drunken driving charge on Jan. 4, 2013.
“I know that I must learn from this mistake. That is what I have tried to do,” Crapo said. “I have apologized, and do again. I have fully faced and fulfilled my obligations to the law.”
The report offered more detail about Crapo’s appearance and behavior during the arrest than previously known. According to the police report, Crapo ran a red light and told the arresting officer, Osama Sharif, that he had drunk several shots of vodka. Sharif said Crapo’s eyes were “bloodshot and watery” and that his speech was slurred.
“I asked the driver to step out of the vehicle and immediately noticed that he was swaying,” Sharif said in his report, adding that Crapo showed signs of “pronounced jerking of the pupils” and kept moving his head when asked to keep it still during sobriety tests. When the officer asked Crapo to walk and turn, Sharif reported, the senator “almost lost balance.”
On Oct. 7, Crapo’s spokesman, Lindsay Nothern, said the senator “does not have and has never seen a copy” of the police report. And he said Crapo’s attorney could not get a copy of it because of the Virginia state law.
Not so, experts said: Defendants may not be automatically entitled to copies, but they can still ask for them.
“He can definitely ask and the police could release it,” said Lucy A. Dalglish, the dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. “He just may not want it to be released.”
Ramseur said prosecutors favored the law because it gave them more power, with the ability to withhold documents from defense attorneys. But he said prosecutors in roughly half of the jurisdictions in Virginia would release the police reports in some form.
Melinda Douglas, a public defender in Alexandria since 1987, said her office had gained access to hundreds of DUI reports. She said prosecutors generally allowed the reports to be copied or read.
“If there’s a police report, we usually get a police report, and we can’t think of instances where we don’t,” she said.
Sharif, the arresting officer, declined to comment, referring questions to the city police department.
Crystal Nosal, spokeswoman for the city’s police department, would not release the report but said she had checked with Sharif to make sure that it contained all the facts.
“I have not been informed of any missing information in the police report,” she said.
Copy of police report from Crapo’s DUI arrest
Mr. Michael Crapo was found to be driving under the influence of alcoholic beverage after being stopped for a traffic violation. On December 23rd 2012 I was on patrol in uniform while displaying my badge of authority. I was stopped in my marked police cruiser at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Mt. Vernon Avenue in the northbound lane. I observed a white vehicle across the street from my location making a U-turn. The vehicle was on the northbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue just north of Mt. Vernon Avenue. I then observed the vehicle come to a stop on the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Mt. Vernon Avenue in the southbound lane. The traffic light for both north and southbound lanes was red at the time. I observed the vehicle then proceed through the intersection against the red light and make a left turn on Mt. Vernon Avenue. I followed the vehicle and initiated a traffic stop for disregarding a red light.
When I spoke to the driver, I immediately detected a strong odor of alcoholic beverage on his breath. The odor became stronger as he spoke to me. I also noticed that the driver's eyes were bloodshot and watery and his speech was slurred. The driver indicated to me that he had consumed several shots of Vodka hours earlier. He added that he did not consume any more alcoholic beverages since then. I asked the driver to step out of the vehicle and immediately noticed that he was swaying. The driver walked to the sidewalk as he continued swaying and then stopped. I offered the driver to conduct four field sobriety tests and he agreed. I then asked him to choose a flat surface and he did. I conducted the instructions for the tests in a well lit area and asked the driver if he could see my hands and feet and he indicated that he did.
The following are the results of the tests: HGN test: There were several pronounced jerking of the pupils on every test. The driver kept moving his head while repeatedly being asked to keep his head still in position. The walk and turn test: The driver had both arms approximately ninety degrees from his waist the entire test. Driver did not have his feet heel to toes on any count on the first walk and had approximately ten to twelve inches between feet. Driver swayed while turning and almost lost balance. Driver did not have feet heel to toe on second third and fifth counts of the second walk. One leg stand test: Driver lifted his left leg with knee bent. His arms were approximately ninety degrees from his waist the entire time of the test. Driver did not count out loud and placed his foot on ground on the tenth count. He started again and placed his foot on the ground on the eleventh count and stopped. The finger count test: Driver successfully completed test.
I later offered the driver to conduct a preliminary breath test and he agreed. The result reading of the test was 0.110. I then placed the driver under arrest for the charge of driving while intoxicated and transported him to booking. I explained the circumstances of this incident to Magistrate Walker. She then issued a warrant against the driver Mr. Crapo for the charge of driving while intoxicated pursuant to Virginia code 18.2-266. Mr. Crapo was also charged with disregarding a red light. The status of this incident is arrest.
******************** Arrest block (7B). Complete one per arrested person *************************** (Each suspect listed below should have a suspect block completed in the electronic report.) Name (Last, First M): CRAPO, MICHAEL DEAN Race: White Sex: Male Date of Birth: 05/20/1951 Arrest "A" number or VUS number: 1003970575 Date and Time of the Arrest: 12/23/2012 @ 01:00 Location of Arrest: Hume Ave. & Mt. Vernon Ave. Place of Birth: Idaho Falls, ID (If there are multiple charges for this suspect, add the additional charge(s) and code(s)) Offense Charge: Driving while intoxicated Offense Code: 18.2-266 Arrest type, (Only 1). Place an (X) to mark the type of arrest. ( x ) (O) On view arrest ( ) (S) Summons/Cited ( ) (T) Taken in to custody Weapons at Arrest (Max 2). Place an (X) to mark the type of weapon and "A" in the blank line if automatic. ( x ) (10) Unarmed ( ) (11) Firearm ___ ( ) (12) Handgun ___ ( ) (13) Rife ___ ( ) (14) Shotgun ___ ( ) (15) Other Firearm ___ ( ) (16) Lethal Cutting Instrument ( ) (17) Club/blackjack/brass knuckles Type of Arrest Activity: (Max 3). Place an (X) to mark the type of arrest activity. ( ) (B) Buying Receiving ( ) (C) Cultivate/manufacture/publish ( ) (D) Distributing/selling ( ) (E) Exploiting children ( ) (U) Using/Consuming ( ) (P) Possession/concealing ( ) (O) Operating/promoting/assisting ( ) (T) Transport/Transmit/Import ( x ) Not Applicable Arrest drug type (Max 3): Place an (X) to mark the arrest drug type ( ) (A) Crack Cocaine ( ) (B) Cocaine ( ) (C) Hashish ( ) (D) Heroin ( ) (M) Marijuana ( ) (M) Morphine ( ) (G) Opium ( ) (H) Other narcotics ( ) (I) LSD ( ) (J) PCP ( ) (K) Other hallucinogens ( ) (L) Amphetamines/Methamphetamines ( ) (M) Other stimulants ( ) (N) Barbiturates ( ) (O) Other depressants ( ) (P) Other drugs ( ) (U) Unknown type drug ( ) (X) Over 3 drug types ISS Notified (Date/Time/Who): 12/23/2012 @ 01:30 , ISS Ms. Brown ********************************************************************** *********************************************** SHARIF, OSAMA CAD: DISPATCH INFORMATION DRUNK DRIVER Incident created from T-STOP TRAFFIC STOP VA 8BW1999