Possibility of formal charges unclear as KS senate leader takes step back following arrest

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 10:20 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Kansas Senate Majority Leader Sen. Gene Suellentrop was on the senate floor Wednesday afternoon, about 36 hours after his DUI-related arrest. On Wednesday, he addressed his Senate Republican colleagues in a closed-door portion of their caucus. It’s unclear what, if any legal ramifications could follow.

Suellentrop did not speak with the media but his team did release his formal statement.

The statement from the Wichita Republican said he regrets the incident is causing a distraction for his colleagues on the issues they are debating on behalf of Kansans. And he hopes his decision to hand off duties will assure the Kansas senate will be able to continue work without interruption or delay. He is not resigning but said he will transfer the bulk of his formal duties to the assistant majority leader until his case is resolved.

“I regret that this incident has caused a distraction for my colleagues and Senate staff, and most importantly, from the important issues we are debating on behalf of the people of Kansas,” his statement reads. “It is my desire that my decision today will assure that the work of the Kansas Senate will continue without interruption or delay.”

Eyewitness News reached out to Suellentrop Wednesday, but as of Wednesday night, did not receive a response. In his statement, the state senator also did not address the early-Tuesday-morning incident nor specific charges.

According to the Shawnee County Department of Corrections, Gene Suellentrop was booked just before 4 a.m. Tuesday in connection with driving under the influence, speeding, improper crossover on a divided highway and attempting to run from the police. A judge ordered Suellentrop released from jail after his first appearance due to lack of probable cause, saying the officer’s report was missing pertinent information.

The Kansas Highway Patrol said the wrong-way driver was Suellentrop who was arrested after a short chase with police. The KHP has yet to submit its final report to the Shawnee County District Attorney to decide on filing formal charges.

Kansas lawmakers are also provided with legislative immunity in a state statute which says, “No member of the legislature shall be subject to arrest, except for treason, felony or breach of the peace” during the legislative session.

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