Kansas Sen. Gene Suellentrop will spend two days in jail for a wild wrong-way drunken ride down Interstate 70 in Topeka this spring after pleading no contest Monday to driving under the influence and reckless driving.
In exchange for pleading no contest on the misdemeanor charges, prosecutors dismissed a felony charge of attempting to flee or elude law enforcement officers that stemmed from his March 16 chase with police that ultimately ended near downtown Topeka.
The Wichita Republican, who is said to have called an officer “donut boy” following his arrest, would have been forced to leave office if found guilty of a felony. By pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charges, Suellentrop neither admitted nor disputed the charges against him.
Suellentrop will spend two days in jail, pay a $775 fine, have an ignition interlock placed on his vehicle and spend a year on probation, under the sentence agreed to as part of the plea deal. He will also be required to attend eight therapy sessions and a drug and alcohol intervention program as a condition of probation.
The charges Suellentrop pleaded to carried a maximum nine months in prison combined. But Shawnee County Judge Jason Geier said it is “typical” to suspend all but two days of the sentence for first offenders in these cases.
Suellentrop was previously denied diversion, a process by which low-level offenders can agree to conditions in lieu of prosecution.
“There are many lessons to be learned from circumstances such as these. I can assure you I’ve learned my share,” Suellentrop said in court.
Suellentrop left the courtroom Monday without responding to reporter questions about whether he would resign from the state Senate seat he has held since 2017.
According to police and 911 audio, Suellentrop allegedly spent 10 minutes driving the wrong way on Topeka highways, nearly colliding with other drivers, early on March 16. He allegedly continued driving and led a Capitol Police officer on a short chase when he tried to arrest him. Police said they used two tactical vehicle interventions to stop Suellentrop’s car.
At Monday’s hearing Suellentrop’s attorney, Tom Lemon, said Suellentrop had made a mistake and was cooperative once he processed what was occurring.
“Frankly, Mr. Suellentrop had drank too much and Mr. Suellentrop did not know police were behind him,” Lemon said.
A criminal affidavit released in April alleged that Suellentrop threatened to fight an officer in addition to calling him “donut boy” and registered a blood alcohol level twice the legal limit hours after he was arrested.
Suellentrop’s Republican colleagues in the Senate voted him out of his leadership role in April after court records detailing his alleged conduct were made public.
On Monday Lemon disputed some of the claims in the affidavit. He said the officer included “salacious” comments he alleged Suellentrop made but those comments were not heard in dash cam video of the arrest.
Many of the comments, however, were alleged to have been made after Suellentrop’s arrest as he and the officer waited for a blood alcohol test when a body camera may not still be activated.
“This was a high intensity situation and maybe there were some misunderstandings,” Lemon said.
He argued Suellentrop had been treated unfairly during the criminal process because he is in the Senate.
“Because of the place he holds he’s not in the DUI docket with similar cases,” Lemon said.
Suellentrop remains a member of the Kansas Senate and an active participant in floor votes and committee meetings. He is up for reelection in 2024.
Since he was first arrested in March, Suellentrop has said little about the allegations against him other than to apologize that the incident “caused a distraction.”