EVERETT — Everett City Councilman Mark Olson can avoid jail if he stays away from alcohol even though he violated an order to stay sober for five years after a drunken-driving arrest in 2003, a judge decided on Tuesday.
Instead of jail time, Olson, 52, must not drink alcohol, and must remain under court supervision and comply with all the conditions of his original agreement for an additional two years. That’s until 2010.
Olson had agreed to stay away from alcohol until 2008 as part of an agreement that allowed him to seek treatment instead of prosecution.
A probation supervisor requested a hearing to determine if Olson was in compliance after it was learned he was being investigated on suspicion of sexually assaulting a woman in June after an evening of drinking.
Olson has been on the City Council since 2001 and his current term ends in 2009. He appeared in Cascade District Court in Arlington.
His attorney Bill Bowman said Olson’s drinking was a misunderstanding. Olson only resumed drinking because he believed he could, Bowman said. His attorney at the time and a mental health provider told Olson he needed to abstain from alcohol for two years, not five.
“He was given bad advice and he should have been more careful, but we’re not talking about a situation where he thumbed his nose at the court” Bowman said.
He has followed all the other conditions of the deferred prosecution as set forth by the court, Bowman said.
Olson was allowed to seek treatment after he was arrested four years ago on the Tulalip Indian Reservation. He was taken into custody after he nearly hit a tribal police officer who had stopped another vehicle, police said. A test allegedly showed Olson’s blood-alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit.
Olson on Tuesday said he was surprised to learn that his compliance was in question. As soon as he learned that the probation counselor called for a hearing he stopped drinking, he said.
“It’s not a big part of my life,” he said.
Olson said he was disappointed the judge didn’t allow for more explanation about why he believed he was allowed to drink. Bowman had asked the judge to continue the hearing until he received more information from Olson’s former attorney and the mental health provider.
Wisman denied the request. He said it wouldn’t affect his decision.
“I find this almost ludicrous (that) this assertion is being made,” Wisman said. “He got into this problem because of a DUI. I don’t think anyone with common sense would think he could drink after two years.”
One of the most important conditions of the deferred prosecution for an alcohol-related offense is that the defendant not drink alcohol, the judge said. Deferred prosecution is a great privilege, Wisman said.
“Drinking while on it is considered by many the most egregious,” offense, he said.
Violations of a deferred prosecution can lead to jail time and other sanctions.
Wisman said he assumed that Olson has been drinking for about two years and wanted Olson to make up the time. He agreed to expand the time Olson must be under court supervision.
As part of the agreement Olson also must undergo another drug and alcohol evaluation and comply with any recommendations set forth by the probation officer.
Meanwhile, Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich said he is reviewing the investigation into a rape allegation made against Olson. No charge has been filed.
Olson and his attorney on Tuesday declined to comment about the ongoing investigation.
A woman told Everett police in June that she believed Olson sexually assaulted her at his downtown Everett law office.
Olson and the woman had spent the evening with other friends at restaurants in Everett. She told detectives she had four drinks that night and felt very intoxicated, court documents show.
She doesn’t remember consenting to a sexual encounter and believes she was too impaired to provide consent, detectives wrote in a search warrant.
Investigators are trying to determine if the sex was consensual or if a crime occurred.
Everett police handed over the investigation to the Washington State Patrol to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Weyrich also agreed to review the case instead of Snohomish County prosecutors to avoid any conflict.
Reporter Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.