Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, transferred his leadership duties on March 17, a day after he was arrested and released. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop was charged Friday with drunk driving and felony fleeing from police while traveling 90 mph in the wrong direction on Interstate 70 in Topeka.
The complaint filed in district court by the Shawnee County District Attorney’s Office indicates the early morning escapade on March 16 ended after Suellentrop “willfully failed or refused” to stop for police.
The Wichita Republican was stopped by Kansas Highway Patrol officers after several 911 callers reported he was driving on the wrong side of the interstate. He was released from jail after a judge determined there was a problem with the arrest report.
The next day, Suellentrop announced he was transferring leadership duties to an assistant while resolving his legal matters.
He now faces a level nine felony for fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer, misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and reckless driving, and traffic infractions for driving the wrong way on a divided highway and speeding.
The complaint says he was driving 90 mph in a 65 mph zone. His blood alcohol level was over the legal limit of .08, but the complaint doesn’t specify the exact reading.
The felony charge indicates he “failed to stop for a police roadblock, drove around a tire deflating device placed by a police officer, engaged in reckless driving, was involved in a motor vehicle accident, intentionally caused damage to property” and eluded capture. District Attorney Mike Kagay said Saturday the complaint uses standard language that reflects different ways the prosecutor can prove the charge and is not a comment on the evidence in the case.
Suellentrop was booked Friday into Shawnee County Jail and released after posting $5,000 bond.
Senate President Ty Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn issued a joint statement saying they have reached out to the GOP Senate caucus about “how to proceed most effectively” after learning of Suellentrop’s charges.
“The complaint’s allegations are very serious, and we trust the legal process will ensure due process and a just resolution,” Masterson and Wilborn said. “We are thankful that no one was injured, and we continue to pray for Gene and his family.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to include explanation from the district attorney about the language used in the felony charge.
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