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Former Wasilla city councilman arrested for texting while driving, pot possession

Zaz Hollander

WASILLA -- A former Wasilla city council member was arrested Monday on charges of texting while driving and marijuana possession, Alaska State Troopers said.

Patrol trooper Joel Miner happened to stop next to 42-year-old Noel H. Lowe and his wife, Sandra, 36, at a red traffic light on the Parks Highway at Crusey Street at about 5:30 p.m. Monday, according to a sworn affidavit filed with charging documents Tuesday in Palmer District Court.

Lowe held a cell phone on the steering wheel with both hands, Miner said.

When the light changed, the trooper watched Lowe "typing on the phone with the thumbs of both hands" as the light from the phone illuminated his face, Miner wrote. "Noel glanced up at the road and then back on the phone with the majority of the time staring at the phone."

The trooper said he counted 10 to 12 thumb strikes on the phone before noticing the distance widening between his unmarked vehicle and Lowe's 2012 white Chevrolet Silverado.

The SUV had veered several feet off the snowy road into the median area, Miner wrote. Lowe corrected and swerved back into his lane.

The trooper pulled him over, he said.

Miner said he immediately smelled "an overpowering and strong odor of marijuana" coming from the Silverado.

Lowe denied texting when the trooper told him the reason for the stop, according to the affidavit. He said there was no marijuana inside when asked about the smell.

Miner said he saw a small amount of marijuana "shake" in full view in the center console middle slot.

Lowe declined consent to search the SUV and his phone, according to the affidavit.

The trooper arrested both Lowes for sixth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance. He said he discovered additional drugs or paraphernalia during a search of the "reach, lunge and grasp" areas near Lowe: a bud of marijuana next to the passenger seat; a cereal box behind that seat with a gallon-size plastic bag later found to contain 3.67 ounces of marijuana; and two glass pipes.

Lowe was also arrested for texting while driving, according to the affidavit. His and his wife's cell phones were seized pending search warrants related to the drug and texting while driving charges.

Noel Lowe was taken to Mat-Su Pretrial Facility and jailed on $1,000 bail. Sandra Lowe was taken to Mat-Su Pretrial, and released on her own recognizance.

The couple could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Noel Lowe had a complicated history as an elected official.

Elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2002, Lowe served nearly six years on the council. He resigned in June 2005 over questions about his residency.

Lowe was arrested in Fairbanks for driving under the influence in 2004, a charge that was later dismissed, according to a state database of court records. Instead, Lowe pleaded no contest to an accompanying misdemeanor charge of refusal to submit to a chemical test.

According to reports at the time, Lowe was arrested after officers saw him driving the wrong way down a street following a woman he identified as his fiancee, trying to get her into his car. A breath test at the scene estimated Lowe's blood-alcohol at 0.12, over the 0.08 legal limit for driving. He refused to take a follow-up blood-alcohol test at the police station, a police lieutenant said at the time.

Lowe also pleaded guilty to a low-level drug charge filed at the Glennallen courthouse in 2009, records show.

Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.


By ZAZ HOLLANDER
zhollander@adn.com