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Judge sentenced to 5 days in jail for drunken driving

  • Author: Lisa Demer
  • Updated: September 29, 2016
  • Published October 27, 2009

An Anchorage Superior Court judge who pleaded no contest Tuesday to drunken driving was ordered to serve five days in jail and three years of probation.

Before he was sentenced, Judge Patrick McKay, 57, told visiting District Judge Keith Levy he was sorry for his behavior.

"I sincerely apologize to my family and my friends and my colleagues on the bench, including you, for the public humiliation that I've caused by my actions, and I accept full responsibility for those," McKay said in court Tuesday. Any consequences meted out in court pale in comparison with the pain that he's brought to others, he said. He thanked God that no one else suffered pain the night he was pulled over.

He apologized to the public, too.

"It affects the public confidence in the judicial system, in this system that I support," McKay said. "It's a system that should never receive any public scorn, certainly not as a result of my poor judgment."

He said he's already gone for a court-ordered substance-abuse evaluation and is receiving treatment.

Marla Greenstein, executive director of the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct, said she cannot recall another criminal case against an Alaska judge since she began working in the area in 1985.

Anchorage police stopped McKay, who lives in Palmer, the evening of Aug. 27 because he was speeding in a Glenn Highway construction zone, according to charging documents. A test put his breath-alcohol level at .157, almost double the legal limit. Police also found a water bottle with some red wine in it, assistant municipal prosecutor Jody Davis told Levy.

The alcohol level and the open container led to McKay getting more jail time than the standard three days for a first offense, Davis said after the hearing.

While McKay has a previous drunken driving conviction, it was longer than 15 years ago, which means it doesn't count as a prior for sentencing purposes, Davis said. McKay was arrested for drunken driving in 1988 and served three days in jail. He was appointed a judge in 2005.

His lawyer, Ray Brown, said McKay wanted to take responsibility for the behavior and never sought leniency.

"This has had a profound impact on him," Brown said at the hearing. He participated by phone from California.

Levy ordered McKay to report to the Cordova Center, a halfway house, on the morning of Nov. 12. Davis said he might be able to serve his time at his own home on house arrest but wouldn't get credit for "good time" if he goes that route. The Corrections Department allows defendants who meet certain conditions to serve their time at home through electronic monitoring, as long as the program isn't full, a spokesman said.

Levy is based in Juneau and was assigned to McKay's case to avoid any conflict for Anchorage judges.

"The main thing is that you be treated no more leniently and no more harshly than somebody else coming before the court," Levy said.

Levy ordered McKay's vehicle impounded for 30 days, which McKay said has already happened. Levy suspended his driver's license for 90 days, a restriction that McKay said was already in progress.

McKay also was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, but he'll be able to deduct from that the costs of treatment and an ignition device that is supposed to prevent a car from starting if a driver has been drinking. He'll have that device on his car for a year, once he's able to drive again.

McKay still faces other proceedings. The Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct will evaluate the case and decide whether discipline such as a public censure would be in order, Greenstein said. The commission likely would emphasize rehabilitation, she said.

"Nationally, the states are all over the place on whether they discipline at all for this," she said. But in Alaska, with so many problems caused by alcohol, it's likely some action will be taken, she said.

The Alaska Bar Association will send the court record of the conviction to the Alaska Supreme Court, said Steve Van Goor, bar counsel. The court likely will refer the matter to the Lawyers' Assistance Committee, which helps bar members with substance abuse problems, Van Goor said. Lawyers must follow the committee's recommendations for evaluation and treatment or risk being suspended until they do, Van Goor said.

In court on Tuesday, Levy said he thinks McKay will follow through.

His case illustrates the widespread damage from alcohol, Levy said. "It doesn't matter what position you have or how much money you make or how smart you are, it affects people across the board."

Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

By LISA DEMER

ldemer@adn.com

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