Driver says he wasn't drunk, just embarrassed
Feb. 23, 2004 06:10 PM
BILLINGS, Mont. - Robert Niel Johnson III and his fiancee know they were embarrassed, and they suspect the patrolman who stopped their car on Interstate 90 one night last June was, too.
They think that might be why he charged Johnson with drunken driving, they testified. After all, they were half naked.
A six-member jury needed only 15 minutes to agree with them Friday and find Johnson not guilty of the DUI charge.
Montana Highway patrolman Darvin Mees testified that Johnson smelled of alcohol, stumbled as he walked and failed some field sobriety tests, then refused further testing, including two breath tests.
Johnson blamed his embarrassment for his poor performance. Jury foreman Rick Newkirk said jurors believed him.
"Anybody caught with their pants down like that would be nervous," Newkirk said.
Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Ingrid Rosenquist argued that Mees had plenty of evidence to charge Johnson with drunken driving. Finding Johnson behind the wheel naked from the waist down was not a consideration, she said.
"He didn't pull him out to do a field sobriety test because the defendant didn't have any pants on," she said.
Johnson and Shelby Kauffman, now married, said they were celebrating their engagement with friends at a Billings bar and left for their home in suburban Lockwood shortly before 1 a.m. Johnson said he drank three beers during the evening and was not intoxicated.
Kauffman said she started getting "frisky" with Johnson as they got closer to home. Johnson said he paused on I-90 to remove his shoes and pants, then continued toward home.
Mees said he clocked their car at 76 mph and stopped them on the Lockwood exit ramp.
Kauffman said they scrambled to get dressed before the officer walked up to the car. The jury saw a videotape of the traffic stop.
"How come you don't have your pants on?" Mees asked Johnson.
"I apologize, sir," Johnson replied.
"The passenger somewhat has her pants on," Mees said.
Kauffman said she immediately had the impression Mees was offended.