Update January 19th, 2011: Sheldon Killpack makes plea deal, pleads guilty to DUI. Other charges dropped; updated post HERE.
Update January 16th (2010): Sheldon Killpack resigns from the Utah State Senate; updated post HERE.
Utah Senate Majority Leader Sheldon Killpack (R-Syracuse), who serves Senate District 21, has been arrested for suspected DUI after flunking a field sobriety test and refusing a breathalyzer. Primary media stories from the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Ogden Standard-Examiner, and KSL Channel 5, and KSTU Channel 13 (with video).
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled a vehicle over at the Supersonic Car Wash at 3300 S. 700 East in Salt Lake City on January 15th at around 12:17 A.M. after noticing its driver was exhibiting a poor driving pattern. Upon encountering the driver, the trooper noticed a strong odor of alcohol. The trooper first asked Killpack to take a field sobriety test. Dissatisfied with the results, the trooper then asked Killpack to take a breath test on an intoxilizer, which is a portable breath tester. Killpack refused and was then arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail at 2:45 A.M. He has since posted bail. While in custody, Killpack refused a second breath test, after which UHP officials then obtained an "E-warrant", allowing them to take a blood sample. The results of the blood test can take up to four weeks to obtain.
While not admitting guilt, Killpack, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, immediately took responsibility for the situation, issuing a statement apologizing to those whom he has disappointed. "I am deeply sorry for the impact this incident will have on those who support and trust me -- my colleagues in the Senate, my constituents and, most importantly, my family," Killpack said. "I am a firm believer in responsibility and personal accountability, and am prepared to accept all personal, legal and political consequences for my actions."
Ironically, Killpack has been one of the legislative leaders in DUI reform. Killpack's father was killed by a drunken driver when the lawmaker was a teenager, and he has sponsored and supported legislation aimed at cracking down on impaired drivers. In 2009, he was the Senate sponsor of a law that allows the seizure of vehicles of habitual drunken drivers. He also sponsored legislation that allows drunken drivers to plead to a reduced charge of impaired driving and go to a DUI court. You can read a previous post about Utah's DUI laws HERE.
Political Ramifications: At this point, there is no pressure on Killpack to resign his Senate seat or renounce any re-election ambitions. Senate President Michael Waddoups, who is in Florida, said he received a phone call from Gov. Gary Herbert, who had been notified of Killpack's arrest by Commissioner of Public Safety Lance Davenport. Waddoups said he later talked to Killpack, opining that "He sounded very disappointed with himself. He sounded down". Waddoups issued a more complete statement HERE. But Waddoups also hinted that the GOP caucus might ask Killpack to resign his position as Majority Leader regardless of the final outcome of this case. Killpack's Senate term expires in 2010, so this could be an issue should he run for re-election. He has not yet formally declared his intent to seek re-election; he would have to file no later than March 19th.
Utah State Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen also issued a statement, available HERE. Killpack has also faced some prior criticism because of his promotion of tolling some of Utah's roads.
As a member of the LDS Church, Killpack is unlikely to face Church discipline until this case is resolved. If found guilty, disfellowshipment or excommunication is unlikely; at worst, he'd face informal probation and probably have his temple recommend pulled for a year. Being a Mormon doesn't turn you into a Superman who can leap over tall temple spires in a single bound; it merely puts you on the fast track for celestial exaltation. Mormons are just as subject to the weaknesses and imperfections of the flesh as others.