District attorney charges Gene Suellentrop with alleged DUI, eluding law enforcement
Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Friday afternoon that he had refiled charges against Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, including counts of felony eluding law enforcement and misdemeanor driving under the influence.
Kansas Highway Patrol arrested Suellentrop early March 16 after allegedly driving the wrong way on Interstate 70 for roughly 10 minutes, evading law enforcement during a short pursuit.
The release said Suellentrop turned himself in shortly before 5 p.m. after a warrant was issued for his arrest. His bond was set at $5,000 and Suellentrop was released about 6:30 p.m.
Suellentrop has been charged with felony eluding or attempting to elude police, driving under the influence, reckless driving and traffic violations for driving the wrong way on a divided highway and speeding.
The driver of a white SUV allegedly belonging to Suellentrop got on Interstate 470 near S.W. Burlingame Road going the wrong direction early March 16, according to a news release from Kagay's office, before eventually traveling east in the westbound lane of I-70.
At least one driver told 911 operators the vehicle nearly struck him and at least two other callers reported seeing the car in the wrong lane.
The vehicle didn't yield to a traffic stop and police radio shows officers unsuccessfully attempting to deploy a device to deflate the vehicle's tires during the pursuit, which Kagay's release terms a "tactical vehicle intervention."
Suellentrop, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was eventually stopped and taken into custody.
But the Wichita Republican was released later that morning after a Shawnee County District Court judge found there was no probable cause to support Suellentrop's arrest during an initial hearing, saying "pertinent information" wasn't included on the arrest report.
In a statement last week, Suellentrop said he was relinquishing many of his leadership duties until "matters that I am currently dealing with are resolved."
"I regret that this incident has caused a distraction for my colleagues and the Senate staff and, most importantly, from the important issues we are debating on behalf of the people of Kansas," Suellentrop said in the statement.
Republican leadership considering options
In a release Friday night, Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, and Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn, R-McPherson, said they "have begun reaching out to other members of the Republican caucus about how to proceed most effectively moving forward."
"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 in the statement. "We are thankful that no one was injured, and we continue to pray for Gene and his family."
Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, maintained that the actions Suellentrop had taken up to this point weren't sufficient.
"He knows the right thing to do and I think he needs to do that for the people of Kansas," Olson said Friday evening.
Suellentrop and his chief of staff, Eric Rucker, didn't return phone calls seeking comment. His attorney also didn't respond to inquiries via phone and email.
KHP formally sent the case file, including a toxicology report, to the district attorney earlier Friday. It comes a day after the agency said no report was prepared that could be released publicly.
The highway patrol's general counsel argued the charges weren't severe enough to require the agency to fill out a Kansas Standard Offense Report, the first page of which is generally made public.