Mayor’s alcohol level was .072 after crash

November 29, 2012


Rescuers assist Mayor Baxter during the Oct. 18 accident

Blood results still pending

SCOTTVILLE – Scottville Mayor Joe Baxter blew a .072 alcohol level on a portable breathalyzer test almost 2 ½ hours after he crashed his truck into a ravine on Oct. 18, according to the crash report from the Michigan State Police.

Mason County Press received the crash report today after filing a Michigan Freedom of Information Act request on Oct. 23.

Baxter was involved in a single vehicle accident at 8:35 a.m. in the ravine at the end of East Second Street. The Michigan State Police was called to investigate because he is the mayor and it would be considered a conflict of interest for the city’s police department to investigate, Police Chief Mark Barnett said the day of the crash.

According to a local law enforcement official and a local attorney, it is not unusual for .072 to be turned over to the prosecutor’s office for consideration of impaired driving. In this case, however, Baxter consented to taking a blood test; the crash report stated blood test results are pending. Sources say it could take several months for results to come back from the state’s crime lab.

PBT results are not permissible in court, the attorney stated.

The PBT was taken at Memorial Medical Center instead of at the scene because Baxter was transported by ambulance to the hospital.

The following are excerpts from the police report:

Trooper Adam Clement: “When I arrived at Memorial Hospital, I went directly to the emergency room. Just outside the emergency room I made contact with Travor Lasater and Matt Witkowski, who were the two Life EMS paramedics who had responded to the scene and had transported the driver to the emergency room. I spoke with both subjects briefly and they both advised the driver smelled moderately of intoxicants on his person and had bloodshot eyes; however, his speech did not appear to be slurred. Due to circumstances of the crash and the fact that the subject was injured, no other indications of intoxication were noted by either. They both stated they had not asked him any questions about his alcohol consumption while transporting him to the hospital.

“After speaking briefly with Life EMS personnel outside the hospital, I went inside the emergency room and made contact with the driver, who was already being treated. The driver was conscious and alert and was able to speak to me at the time.

“I initially made contact with him at 10:55 a.m. After obtaining identification from the driver, I asked him to explain the events of the accident as he remembered them. The driver stated he is the mayor of Scottville and every morning he gets up early and drives around the city streets to check on municipal activity and anything that might need to be done within the city limits. He stated he was on his way returning home and he was driving eastbound on Second Street. He stated normally he would turn on Elm Street (the street he lives on); however, he decided to drive past Elm Street and as he did, two deer jumped out in front of his vehicle from the north. The driver stated when he saw the deer he tried to hit his brakes; however, he now believes he might have hit the gas pedal because he was wearing large boots at the time. He stated he simply lost control of his vehicle and drove directly off the road and into a ravine and struck a stand of trees at the bottom of the ravine.

“The driver had noticeable minor injuries and complained of pain in his chest, his right hand was bandaged and he stated he had some pain in one of his shins as wel.

“While I spoke with the driver, I did notice a slight odor of intoxicants on his person and observed his eyes were bloodshot. I asked the driver if he had consumed any alcohol and if so, when was the last time he had any alcohol. He stated the last time he had anything to drink was last night, approximately 5 to 6 p.m. He stated he was up until about 8:15 p.m. waiting for the Tigers game, which got rained out and he went to bed at approximately 8:15 p.m. last night. He sated he had nothing to drink since last night and denied having anything to drink in the morning. The driver stated the only alcohol he could possibly have in his mouth was residual alcohol from the night prior in his dental work.

“As I spoke a little further with the complainant, he advised in addition to driving around the city streets of Scottville, he had also driven out to his cabin in the (whited out) area to check for deer activity for the upcoming deer season. He stated he was actually on his way back through Scottville when the accident occurred.

“When the accident happened, the driver advised he was able to extricate himself from the vehicle and while he was at the bottom of the ravine, he had a couple sips of stream water. He stated that was the only thing he had to drink since the accident occurred. He stated the only medicine he takes is for (whited out) issues. He stated he does not have diabetes and does not take insulin. He stated none of his medications affect his ability to drive a vehicle.

“The driver would later tell me that he usually drinks whiskey and he believed he had somewhere in the neighborhood of one pint of whiskey to drink the night prior.

“I made the initial contact with the driver at 10:55 a.m., according to my watch. After taking his statement and allowing the 15 minute observation period to elapse, I advised the driver of his preliminary breath test rights. The driver stated he understood his rights and agreed to submit to a PBT as requested. I administered a preliminary breath test to the driver at 10:14 a.m. (this could be a mis-type and may have been 11:14 a.m.), according to my watch, which resulted in a .072 blood alcohol content reading.

“Because the driver was not currently under arrest, I requested his consent for a blood withdrawal. The driver agreed and voluntarily completed a UD-026, statement of consent form, giving permission for a blood sample to be withdrawn. The driver signed and dated the form and his wife also signed the form as a witness.

“(The lab tech) came to the emergency room and drew two vials of blood from the driver; both vials were taken at 10:29 a.m. (another mis-type?) and were subsequently packaged in the forensic blood kit, which will be forwarded to the MSP forensic laboratory in Lansing for testing and analysis.”

Later in the report, Trooper Clement states inventory of the car’s contents included an empty alcohol flask. “Nothing else to note was located.”

On Nov. 12 the Scottville City Commission unanimously re-elected Baxter as mayor for a second two-year term.


Story by Rob Alway

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