Strauss Flashed Senate ID to Cops Before Arrest

From the Washington City Paper blog City Desk

During a nighttime traffic stop that resulted in drunk-driving charges, Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss repeatedly brandished his U.S. Senate badge to police officers, court documents say.

The records also indicate that Strauss’ blood-alcohol level was at twice the legal level of intoxication after his Oct. 1 arrest, which was first reported two weeks ago by City Desk. The details of the arrest come from a police officer’s sworn affidavit [PDF; images below], which was recently filed in Superior Court.

Last week, Strauss pleaded not guilty at his first court appearance—two days after winning a third six-year term as shadow senator with over 80 percent of the vote. His office comes with few of the privileges enjoyed by full-fledged senators, but one perk he does have is official identification, which gives him access to members-only parts of the Capitol (but not the Senate floor).

The stop took place after D.C. cops Jose Rodriguez and Andrew Zabavsky clocked Strauss’ car going 49 mph westbound over the Duke Ellington Bridge between Adams Morgan and Woodley Park; the speed limit is 25 mph.

While speaking to Strauss, Rodriguez—who gave the affidavit—noted that his breath smelled of alcohol and that he “had a blank stare, blood shot eyes and appeared confused.” Strauss had “difficulty retrieving” his driver’s license, according to the officer’s account, but he had less difficulty producing another form of identification: While handing over his license, Strauss “displayed his US Senate ID with his right hand…[and] continued to hold the US Senate ID the entire time” until he was told to get out of the car.

“Is this necessary?” Strauss asked.

It became immediately apparent why he might have wanted to remain seated: Strauss, Rodriguez wrote, was “very unsteady on his feet…swaying from side to side and back and forth.” He walked to the rear of the car, grasping it for support, and again pulled out his Senate ID.

His badge did not sway police.

The cops had Strauss perform standard field sobriety tests. After failing a horizontal gaze test, Strauss asked permission to call his lawyer, whom he wasn’t able to reach. After he refused to cooperate with further tests, he was placed under arrest.

Strauss was then taken to 3rd District headquarters. There he was observed by a third officer, who also recorded signs of intoxication and noted that Strauss “had food stains on his shirt and pants.”

At that point, Strauss reached the lawyer, and the two talked for about a half-hour. Afterward, Strauss consented to a breath test, which revealed a blood-alcohol level of 0.16 percent. Under District law, a person is considered intoxicated at 0.08 percent and above.

Strauss declined to comment on Thursday night, referring questions to his attorneys at Schertler & Onorato. Lawyer Dave Schertler issued this statement:

“Because this matter is currently pending in Court, we cannot comment on the specifics of Mr. Strauss’ case at this time other than to note that we dispute some of the factual allegations in the Affidavit.  We await the swift and favorable resolution of this matter in Court, and Mr. Strauss looks forward to continuing to serve the people of the District of Columbia in this new term.”

During the traffic stop, Zabavsky asked Strauss where he had come from.

“Adams Morgan,” he said.

Zabavsky asked him to be more specific. At a restaurant?

Strauss replied, “What do you want me to give you, an exact address?”

The cop then asked the shadow senator how much he’d had to drink.

“Nothing,” Strauss said.

—Jason Cherkis and Mike DeBonis

Click images to enlarge

Strauss Gerstein Page 1

Strauss Gerstein Page 2

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