County prosecutor accused of DUI on I-5

Published June 21, 2007

A Thurston County deputy prosecuting attorney has been charged with drunken driving after he was pulled over about 11:40 p.m. Saturday by a State Patrol trooper on Interstate 5 in Snohomish County.

The prosecutor, David Soukup, 46, registered blood-alcohol levels of 0.111 and 0.109; 0.08 is the legal limit for blood-alcohol content while driving in Washington.

On Monday, Soukup was back on the job, arguing in Superior Court for the conviction of Glenn Kevin Shellmer, a motorcyclist accused of drunken driving in an April collision on Yelm Highway that left a woman with broken bones in her leg and hand.

On Wednesday, he won a conviction in the case for vehicular assault due to driver intoxication.

In a phone interview hours later, Soukup addressed his DUI citation.

“I drove while I was intoxicated,” he said. “That is a horrible thing to do. Nobody can offer any adequate excuses for that. I’m going to take responsibility for my actions, and I’m going to seek treatment for my alcoholism.”

Shellmer’s attorney, John Sinclair, said Wednesday that he thinks it is inappropriate for Soukup’s superiors to allow him to prosecute a case involving drunken driving if they knew Soukup had been arrested for allegedly doing the same thing days earlier.

Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim disagreed. He said Soukup told him about the incident over the weekend. With Shellmer’s trial set to start Monday, there was not enough time to find another prosecutor, he said.

“I’m not aware that there’s a conflict because the evidence is what it is,” Tunheim said, adding that a jury should not decide a case based on a prosecutor’s background.

“We couldn’t put another attorney on the case on the morning of trial,” Tunheim added. “That would be tantamount to malpractice.”

Tunheim said the prosecutor’s office has not taken any disciplinary action against Soukup. Some action is likely after the prosecutor’s office has all of the facts, he said.

“We’re handling it as an internal employment matter,” Tunheim added.

Soukup is innocent until proven guilty, Tunheim said, adding, “When a prosecutor is accused of something like this, it’s troublesome.”

Soukup has faced a criminal charge before. He was acquitted of misdemeanor domestic violence in October 2005, after he was arrested on suspicion of assault during an argument with his estranged wife months earlier.

Also in 2005, Superior Court Judge Richard Hicks refused to hear any cases brought by Soukup, citing “prior actions” for which he had sanctioned Soukup. The ban apparently ended; Hicks was the judge during Shellmer’s trial. Hicks could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

An official at Snohomish County District Court said Soukup has been arraigned on the DUI charge, and the court automatically entered a not-guilty plea for him. Soukup’s pretrial hearing is scheduled for Aug. 17, and his trial is set for Aug. 27, the court official said.

Soukup was not booked into jail, the court official added.

Soukup was driving south on I-5 at milepost 191, according to a copy of the DUI citation. Kirk Rudeen, a public information officer for the State Patrol in Snohomish County, said he did not have any information about Soukup’s case, such as why the stop was initiated.

Rudeen said that not every DUI suspect is booked into jail.

A woman who answered the phone at the Snohomish County prosecuting attorney’s office said her agency had not received the paperwork in Soukup’s DUI case, and it had not been assigned to a prosecutor.

Soukup is not the first Thurston County prosecutor to face legal troubles in the past year. In October, then-prosecutor William Halstead was arrested at Qwest Field after he allegedly was found in a women’s restroom during a Seahawks game. A King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said that Halstead appeared to have been drinking and did not cooperate with deputies, who ejected him from the stadium. The woman who was with Halstead at the time of his arrest also was an employee of the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office.

Halstead resigned from the office in December.

Jeremy Pawloski - The Olympian