The Venus DUI trap: a booze-news roundup

The latest on Seattle-area politicians in trouble with the law.
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Seattle City Council candidate Venus Velázquez. (

The latest on Seattle-area politicians in trouble with the law.

Whereas last night, Oct. 17, Seattle City Council candidate Venus Velázquez was busted and accused of drunken driving and doing 50 mph in a 30 zone;

And whereas last week City Council member Richard McIver spent two nights in jail after being arrested for investigation of domestic violence after a night of drinking and has been charged with assault of his wife;

And whereas King County Council member Jane Hague during the summer was arrested and charged with drunken driving and allegedly said, "This is fucking ridiculous, I don't need handcuffs";

Therefore, be it resolved, it's time to line up three shot glasses on the bar.

First, the latest. Velázquez says she attended a campaign event in Ballard and then went to dinner with staffers, where she had two drinks. She told The Seattle Times, which broke the story, that she waited until she thought she was OK to drive. But she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she and another staffer, who rode with her, discussed who should drive, and it was decided that Velázquez was not impaired. According to the police report [100K PDF], Velázquez declined to take a breath test. Which means she could lose her license for a year. Oh, did we mention that she didn't have her license with her? Also, don't miss the paragraph in the Times where her opponent, Bruce Harrell, who seems to have tipped the paper to the bust, even if unintentionally, says: "My prayers are with her family."

Second, yesterday's big news out of King County District Court, where McIver was charged and entered a not-guilty plea to fourth-degree assault for allegedly grabbing his wife and choking her. His wife, Marlaina Kiner-McIver, appeared and said she did not want the veteran and widely liked council member to be prosecuted, but that's not how it works in the now-enlightened world of domestic-violence protection. She also requested, through a victim's advocate, that a two-week no-contact order be lifted, but neither the prosecution nor McIver's lawyer thought that was a good idea. One reason McIver isn't likely to get any leniency: He's so well-known and liked that officials won't want to be accused of favored treatment.

For elaboration on that last point, please refer to The Stranger's good article this week on McIver's drinking habits. At 66, he's old-school – holds court at a bar, talks a lot of shop, and by all accounts isn't a mean drunk:

One former council staffer who sometimes drank with McIver at the Four Seas, the Chinatown dive bar that has long been his favorite haunt, described him as "totally harmless... kind of a goofball" after a few Johnnie Walker Reds–his drink of choice. "I know some people get more angry and aggressive when they're drunk, but he just got more smiley and goofy. The more he drinks, the more social he gets." Another called him "the perfect gentleman."

Finally, consider an argument proffered by Seattle Weekly that Hague, who appeared before a judge pro-tem during the long pre-trial processing of her DUI charge, can claim to be a judicial reformer:

Because of her, current and future county "pro tempore" judges and commissioners will now be subject to criminal background checks–something that wasn't previously required. No longer, say embarrassed officials, will judges be hired who have worse records than the people they're judging.

The screening flaw emerged during a King County District Court hearing in Hague's DUI case, when the county fill-in judge who was hired to preside that day turned out to have a criminal record.


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