By Scott North Herald Writer
MILL CREEK — A longtime Snohomish County judge will face no charges after being arrested Aug. 29 for suspected drunken driving.
There is insufficient evidence to prove Snohomish County District Court Judge Timothy Ryan was drunk that night, and another judge likely would testify the man wasn’t impaired, according to documents released Monday under public records laws.
Ryan was pulled over by a Washington State Patrol trooper who said the judge was speeding and driving erratically along the Bothell-Everett Highway near Mill Creek.
Based on Ryan’s reportedly bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol, troopers asked him to perform sobriety tests. The judge declined. He was arrested and his vehicle impounded. Ryan was then driven home after refusing to submit to sobriety testing using a Breathalyzer at nearby Mill Creek police headquarters.
Although troopers believed Ryan exhibited signs of intoxication, a King County deputy prosecutor concluded that Ryan’s cause would be helped “most significantly” by the anticipated testimony of Roger Fisher, Ryan’s friend and fellow district court judge.
Ryan told troopers he’d consumed a single beer while with Fisher at a restaurant that evening. Fisher, meanwhile, told investigators that he was having dinner with Ryan until minutes before the traffic stop, and he is convinced his friend was “not at all impaired” by the two glasses of wine he said the man consumed during a three-hour meal.
It appears Ryan lied about his alcohol consumption, but based on the available evidence, it is unlikely that a jury would find the judge guilty of drunken driving, Erin Norgaard, a senior deputy prosecutor, wrote the trooper who pulled over the judge.
“To prove the DUI charge in this case, the state must have sufficient admissible evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (Ryan) drove his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol,” Norgaard wrote. “Here, we can prove that (Ryan) consumed alcohol prior to driving his vehicle, but we lack sufficient admissible evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his alcohol consumption impaired his ability to drive.”
Ryan was recovering from hip surgery at the time of the traffic stop, and he likely would be able to offer that explanation for his refusal to submit to roadside sobriety tests, the prosecutor wrote. His refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test could be offered as consciousness of guilt, but that wouldn’t overcome Fisher’s testimony about Ryan being unaffected by alcohol consumption that evening, Norgaard wrote.
A toxicologist likely would testify that Ryan’s body would have sufficiently metabolized two glasses of wine during a three-hour period to be well below the level of impairment, the prosecutor wrote.
“Although Judge (Ryan) lied to the trooper about the type and quantity of alcohol he consumed, the amount of alcohol that he did consume (i.e., 2 glasses of wine) is still insufficient to prove impairment under the circumstances of this case,” the prosecutor added.
Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe requested that the case be moved to King County to avoid a conflict of interest for local prosecutors and judges.
Ryan has for years worked as a judge at Snohomish County District Court’s South Division in Lynnwood. Fisher is a judge in the Everett division.
Ryan was pulled over in August after a trooper noticed an Acura TSX sedan drift multiple times outside its lane. The car also reached 53 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to an arrest report.
The trooper recognized Ryan from having appeared on cases in his courtroom over the years. When told he was under arrest, the judge reportedly asked the trooper if he was being serious.
There are no plans to cite Ryan for any traffic infractions from that evening, patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said Monday.
Under state law, anybody who refuses a breath test resulting from a traffic stop faces an automatic two-year license suspension.
Ryan has requested an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension, according to Christine Anthony, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Licensing. His license will remain valid until the administrative process has concluded. His hearing date is scheduled Nov. 27.
Ryan remains a seated judge, although he has not been presiding over cases in recent months. The court has been using pro tem judges in his place, said Robert Veliz, the assistant director for the county’s district courts.
Ryan has been on sick leave because of some serious health issues, including problems with his hip following surgery, Veliz said.
Herald writers Diana Hefley and Noah Haglund contributed.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, firstname.lastname@example.org