NISSWA -- Crow Wing County Assistant County Attorney John Sausen was arrested Aug. 8 by a Nisswa police officer and charged with misdemeanor driving while intoxicated.
A urine test conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension lab in St. Paul determined Sausen's blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. Sausen's test revealed a blood alcohol level of 0.10. In Minnesota it is a crime to drive a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.10 or above.
Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor presented the case to Nisswa City Attorney Matt Mahle.
About 15 calls to Sausen at his home, at the Crow Wing County Attorney's Office and at Twin Cities hotels in an attempt to reach him at a conference Tuesday through today weren't returned.
Mahle said Thursday he had the police report on his desk but had not yet reviewed the report. Mahle has jurisdiction over misdemeanors and some gross misdemeanors within the city limits.
Mahle has not yet determined whether his office will handle the Sausen case or if he will go through a special prosecutor. Once that decision is made, Mahle said he will consider charges.
"If there is a conflict (of interest) I would make that decision and appoint a special prosecutor and I haven't made that decision," Mahle said. He could also make the determination not to file formal charges.
Mahle said it is his policy not to comment on any criminal case that his office has pending. And in order to prosecute cases, he does not comment on specific cases until they are completed.
"I think that's just a prudent thing to do," Mahle said.
Sausen, 52, a Nisswa area resident, driving a 1991 black Ford Thunderbird coupe, was stopped for expired registration at 9:08 p.m. Aug. 8 on Highway 371 just south of County Road 77. There was no indication of erratic driving. During the stop, the Nisswa police officer noticed an odor of alcohol and asked Sausen to step out of the vehicle for a sobriety test at which time the officer determined he was under the influence.
When Sausen was stopped and alcohol was suspected, Taylor said a breathalyzer was not administered because the device is located in the Crow Wing County Jail. Taylor said a breathalyzer is normally the first option in such a case then the individual is held at the Crow Wing County jail. Giving Sausen the urine test and taking him home deviated a little from the norm, Taylor said, but that procedure has also been done for other people.
For Sausen's safety, considering his role as a county prosecutor in criminal cases, he was not transported to the jail, Taylor said.
"It was for his safety," he said.
Sausen was transported to the Nisswa Police Department office for a urine test. After the urine test was completed, Sausen was transported home.
While Mahle would not comment on a specific case, he said the procedure when a driver is believed to be under the influence is to issue a seven-day temporary driver's license upon revocation for DUI. The state is responsible for reinstating a driver's license. There are no restrictions on Sausen's driving privileges until his initial court appearance, depending on what the city attorney decides on charges, Taylor said.
Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan said Tuesday it would be inappropriate for him to comment on a pending investigation, whether it involved someone from his department or from any other pending case.
Ryan did say his office wouldn't be involved in the prosecution because the case presented an obvious conflict of interest. It is unclear how long a process such a case would take to go through the legal system. The city of Nisswa has some cases completed in three weeks and others are two years old. Defense attorneys may contest hearings, which could make the process longer. Mahle said time frames are indefinite and everything is considered on a case by case basis.
Taylor said Sausen has not been in custody or been stopped before by a Nisswa officer.
Taylor said he has received two anonymous complaints regarding Sausen but they were general without specifics or names of callers. Sausen's job as a county prosecutor working in felony cases also created concern that unfounded calls could be made to retaliate against him. Taylor said to the best of his knowledge Nisswa officers have never given Sausen a ride home because he was intoxicated and have not seen him drive drunk.
"Basically we've never received a specific complaint on him," Taylor said. "We are not going to protect anyone and we are also not going to target anyone."
Sausen prosecutes felony cases for Crow Wing County. His 2002 salary is $72,802.
He is a graduate of St. Thomas Military Academy, the University of Minnesota with degrees in philosophy, psychology, criminal justice and he completed a post-graduate program regarding problems in drug and alcohol abuse. He received his juris doctorate degree from Hamline University.
In 1998, Sausen and his contractor were working with Cass County officials on a restoration plan to protect Little Green Bass Lake when land was cleared when it was not supposed to be cut. The work was done without a permit. Five layers of silt fence were added and plans set for replacement of the ground cover to protect the lake from erosion after vegetation was clear-cut to lake's edge on Sausen's property.
In 1997, Sausen and the Crow Wing County Board settled a long-standing salary dispute after a judge ruled in 1995 that assistant county attorneys were underpaid. The case, which reached the state Supreme Court level, took the county board to an International Falls courtroom for a hearing.
In 1994 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Crow Wing County attorney position.
In 1993, a misdemeanor complaint was issued by the city of Brainerd against Sausen relating to overtime parking tickets. The complaint noted that officers tagged his car seven times from March 15 to June 3 for being illegally parked. Most of the violations were for illegally parking in a county courthouse lot designated for visitors.
Sausen contended then he was not required to pay the tickets because he believed the city police did not have the jurisdiction to ticket vehicles in the county lot. City officials maintained there was an agreement with the county regarding parking violations in the county lot.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.