Idaho state senator arrested on suspicion of grand theft

By Keith Ridler

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, June 19 2011 7:50 p.m. MDT

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Senate GOP Caucus Chairman John McGee was arrested early Sunday after police say he took a Ford Excursion and cargo trailer from the Boise-area home of a "complete stranger" and a blood-alcohol test showed the four-term lawmaker had been drinking.

The 38-year-old McGee, who represents Caldwell, was taken into custody by police on suspicion of felony grand theft and misdemeanor driving under the influence, authorities said. Officials said a breath test found he had a blood-alcohol content of .15, nearly twice the Idaho state limit. He was booked into the Ada County Jail at about 4:30 a.m.

Lt. Kody Aldrich told The Associated Press that McGee did not know the owner of the SUV and trailer, which became stuck as he backed into a neighbor's yard southwest of Boise. It was also unclear why McGee was in the Boise area in Ada County.

"Nobody knows why he was there," Aldrich said. "It doesn't sound like he did either."

Aldrich said McGee told officers he was on his way to Jackpot, Nev.

Aldrich said the vehicle owner reported typically leaving the keys in the unlocked vehicle.

Because McGee faces a potential felony charge, he will be held in jail until he goes before a judge, Aldrich said. The lawmaker's first court appearance is scheduled for Monday afternoon in 4th District Court.

Messages left by The Associated Press at McGee's home and cell phone were not returned Sunday.

KTVB-TV first reported the arrest of the Idaho lawmaker who is in his fourth term representing district 10 in Canyon County.

Idaho Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, expressed support for McGee and said the immediate concern is for his colleague and his family.

"We feel really bad about the situation and how it may affect his wife and family," Hill, the GOP leader of the Senate, told the AP Sunday. "Our concerns right now are to help him and his family out any way we can. We just want to make sure things work out for John and his family."

Aldrich said McGee jackknifed the vehicle and trailer attempting to back up, entering a yard and becoming stuck. Aldrich said the trailer and vehicle sustained minor damage, and that McGee was not injured.

McGee, who is married and has a daughter, in 2006 was named the Idaho Young Republican of the Year and Republican Legislator of the Year.

McGee, the marketing director for West Valley Medical Center, is on the three Legislative committees: local government and taxation, state affairs, and transportation.

In the last Legislative session, McGee supported Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's "Hire one Act" that offers employers tax credits as a way to encourage them to add more workers. McGee also supported a bonds-for-highways plan called "Connecting Idaho" intended to maintain Idaho's roads and bridges.

Also last session he introduced a bill requiring underage drivers to take safety training as part of a compromise to fend off road closures and maintain public access following a U.S. Forest Service plan to close some roads to all-terrain vehicles amid safety concerns over underage drivers.

McGee also supported a measure giving immunity from lawsuits to doctors who recommend that a patient's driver's license be revoked, arguing doctors must be allowed to recommend drastic action without fear of legal repercussions. McGee also supported legislation to ban texting while driving.

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