Last night, November 29, Nathan Stewart, the Jefferson County circuit judge for division 3, was involved in a one-car accident along Route BB south of Cedar Rock Road, according to the Highway Patrol. He went off the road and hit a power pole.
These MO HP images are hard to see, best to click on the links in my text to view them on the HP website.
Stewart, who was defeated earlier this month in his bid for re-election as the Democratic candidate against a GOP wave, and thus only has about a month left in his term, was arrested on the scene for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and felony 2nd degree assault, and taken to the Jefferson County Jail before being quickly released.
Under state law, one of the definitions of 2nd degree assault is:
While in an intoxicated condition or under the influence of controlled substances or drugs, operates a motor vehicle in this state and, when so operating, acts with criminal negligence to cause physical injury to any other person than himself;
This applies in this case because Stewart had a passenger who received moderate injuries and was taken to the hospital. Interestingly, starting January 1st, the legal definition of 2nd degree assault no longer includes the above language. I’m not sure where this offense will fit at that time, but this case falls under the law as it stands now.
I am told by the Highway Patrol that the reports about this incident won’t be available for 10 business days. I will follow up once I acquire them.
Of course, this case will not be able to be handled in Jefferson County, you would think. The prosecutor’s office and every judge would have to recuse themselves. I mean, JeffCo Prosecutor Forrest Wegge has to, right, even though he failed to recuse himself the first time around in the Dianne Critchlow case? But no, here’s what Wegge’s office told Fox 2:
We also asked whether or not a special prosecutor would be appointed to review last night’s accident, but we are told the final decision on possible charges will be made by the Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. The decision could takes weeks, or months.
REALLY?!? Wegge’s going to take this case, even though his office has tried many cases in front of Stewart, and they are both members of the JeffCo Democratic party? Maybe he should glance at the ethics manual. Even if he does decide to prosecute (unlikely – he probably wants to just wait until we all forget about it, then drop the case), what judge will hear it? It will have to go to another county.
In the meantime, will Stewart try to serve out his term, or just step aside? The Fox 2 article goes into this a bit. It says Stewart has several DWI cases on his docket next week. One lawyer assumes the cases will be continued (delayed).
I am interested to see which lawyer defends Stewart if this goes to trial. He had a lot of the Hillsboro legal establishment backing him during the campaign – who will he turn to in his hour of need?
DWI Issues and JeffCo Laywers
There have been a few alcohol incidents involving members of the local criminal justice system in recent history. Here are examples:
- Assistant county prosecutor Catherine Crowley was out of a job a day after seeming to be drunk in court (in Stewart’s courtroom, no less) in May 2015.
- Prominent Festus lawyer, and former county prosecutor and municipal judge, Michael Lowry was involved in an apparent drunk driving accident in 2004, but was allowed to go home, and no charges were filed.
- JeffCo prosecutor Forrest Wegge was arrested for drunk driving in 2003 (before he became prosecutor).
Am I missing anyone?