In a bit of a surprise from the Ada County Courthouse this morning, Sen. John McGee pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of driving under the influence, cutting a deal in which he will not spend any additional time behind bars.
McGee, the Senate GOP caucus chairman and four-term Republican senator from Idaho District 10, stood before Ada County Magistrate James Cawthon and with occasional sniffles, said in a trembling voice that he was "truly sorry."
"This was inconsistent with what I believe and who I am," said McGee. "I hope to win back the trust of those that I have disappointed."
McGee was arrested in the early hours of June 19 after he was found passed out in the backseat of an SUV and trailer he took from a nearby home, and then proceeded to jackknife in the driveway of another home.
As part of a plea agreement brokered between McGee's attorney Scott McKay and Malheur County District Attorney Dan Norris (who took over the prosecution to avoid any potential conflict of interest), a felony charge of operating a vehicle without owner's consent was dropped. Instead, McGee admitted to a misdemeanor DUI.
The sentence included 180 days in jail, 175 of which were suspended—Judge Cawthon credited McGee's two days already spent in the Ada County lockup following his June 19 arrest. Cawthon also said McGee could avoid any more jail time by performing 24 hours of community service through the Ada County Sheriff's Office.
Additionally, Cawthon suspended McGee's driver's license for 180 days, with 30 days being "absolute," meaning McGee cannot operate a vehicle for any reason at any time. McGee was also sentenced to attend a victims panel related to drunk driving, one year of unsupervised probation and restitution to the owners of the vehicle and a home where he crashed the SUV. McGee said he has already apologized to the owners in person and in writing.
Even though McGee agreed to plea guilty to DUI, McKay spent approximately 10 minutes giving his version of the events, which he said would have served as a defense.
"But offering a defense was not my client's wish," McKay told the court.
McKay then proceeded to say that McGee had indeed had too much to drink following a golf tournament at Hillcrest Country Club.
"When he left the club, he fell and hit his head," said McKay. "I was ready to have a neurologist confirm that my client has sustained a concussion. This is not an excuse, but it was so far out of character for him. Finally, I want the court to know that John McGee is a really, really good person, because he's trying to do the right thing."