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Senate candidate Miller says troopers stopped him after false DUI report

Nathaniel Herz

U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller says he was stopped and issued a ticket for a broken taillight by the Alaska State Troopers on Tuesday after another driver called in a meritless claim that Miller was driving drunk.

The conservative Republican, based in Fairbanks, said in a Facebook post that a trooper -- accompanied by a camera crew -- pulled him over on the Parks Highway while Miller was driving a vehicle carrying 4-foot by 8-foot campaign signs.

That was five minutes after Miller passed a truck driver in front of him who had "slammed on his brakes" for no reason - and four days after a pickup carrying Miller's son, and the same campaign signs, had been stopped for an identical offense, he said in his post.

"Explanation was that someone called in a complaint about a drunk driver," Miller said, referring to his own stop. "I was cited for a broken taillight. Let the games begin."

A spokeswoman for the troopers wrote in an email that the agency received a report Tuesday afternoon of someone driving a white Ford Expedition and "exhibiting aggressive driving behaviors."

The spokeswoman, Beth Ipsen, added: "Since this vehicle was an enclosed SUV, the trooper did not see any campaign signs in the back."

Miller was stopped at milepost 229, which is near Cantwell, about 20 minutes after troopers received the call, Ipsen said.

Ipsen said the camera crew -- which Miller called a "curiosity" -- was with the trooper to get footage for the "Alaska State Troopers" television show, but they may not have filmed the stop since it was deemed routine.

The state's court records database shows that Miller was issued a $40 fine with a $10 "police training surcharge." Ipsen said Miller was also given a warning for "other vehicle equipment violations."

A spokesman for Miller, Randy DeSoto, did not acknowledge a request for an interview and instead responded in an email: "The point of the Facebook post is that we are entering silly season, and we're likely to see political games being played going towards Election Day that would not normally happen."

DeSoto noted Miller had received a "fix-it" ticket, which can be dismissed if the taillight problem is remedied.

In his post, Miller said the troopers stopped his son for a broken taillight Friday. At the time, Miller said his son had been riding in a friend's pickup truck, and the trooper who stopped them also was trailing a camera crew.

After summarizing those stops, Miller added that he has "many friends in law enforcement" and that his position towards Alaska State Troopers is, and has been, "very positive."

But he said he did not deserve to be stopped for what he described as a "false report of DUI."

"The supposed taillight issue wasn't even seen at the time the stop was initiated," he noted.

And the report, he added, came from a driver "who just happens to be employed by a company whose principal donated tens of thousands of dollars against our efforts here in Alaska."

Miller did not specify the company to which he was referring.

Ipsen said that the troopers had responded to what the agency classifies as a report of a dangerous driver.

"This doesn't automatically suggest the person was driving under the influence, just driving hazardously," Ipsen said.

Another spokeswoman for the troopers, Megan Peters, said troopers are allowed to make contact with a driver based on a report that comes from another citizen.

She said Miller should contact the department's Office of Professional Standards "if he believes they were doing something inappropriate."

"If someone wishes to contest a ticket, the instructions to do so are on the ticket," Peters wrote in a follow-up email.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com