Police and hospital support staff action in Graham arrest

Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | 8:34 p.m. CDT; updated 7:55 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — A spokeswoman for University Hospital said the hospital staff followed appropriate procedures when they tried to prevent Columbia police Officer Donald Weaver from taking a sample of Sen. Chuck Graham’s urine from the hospital to test it for alcohol.

Meanwhile, Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm said Weaver acted according to police procedure when he took Graham’s urine.

Graham, D-Columbia, was arrested Saturday night on suspicion of driving while intoxicated after police said Graham rear-ended a minivan near his south Columbia home.

According to an incident report released by police, Graham at first denied he had been drinking, then told an officer that he had “a few drinks.”

The 17-page police report released today details a bizarre night that included a fight over Graham’s urine collected at University Hospital. The passages paint Graham as uncooperative and evasive.

Robert Murray, Graham’s attorney, said the incident narrative was not an accurate depiction of the night.

“What we have is the officer’s version of what happened,” Murray said. “There are lots of inaccuracies throughout the report.”

Murray said he is still gathering information himself and could not comment on what the inaccuracies were at this time.

According to the report, at the scene of the crash Graham said his “paralyzation problem” made it impossible for him to undergo the sobriety tests. Specifically, he told police he could not move his eyes from side to side without moving his head.

Graham uses a wheelchair as a result of a car accident that left him partially paralyzed when he was 16.

Police transported Graham to the police department. After consulting with his attorney over the phone, Graham told police he had a bruise on his forearm and needed medical attention.

Weaver called for a paramedic to transport Graham to University Hospital and continued to ask, “no less than six times,” whether Graham would submit to the chemical test of his breath. After Weaver prepared the Breathalyzer with a sterile mouthpiece, Graham stated that he needed medical assistance and did not give a sample. Weaver then warned Graham that his statements constituted refusal under Missouri law, the report states.

The license of a driver who refuses a Breathalyzer or other chemical test is automatically suspended for one year, according to a Missouri statute.

Graham was transported to University Hospital, and Weaver attempted to collect a bag of Graham’s urine. The report said Murray, emergency room doctor Scott Schultz, a nurse, a hospital administrator and two security guards attempted to prevent Weaver from taking the urine.

“Schultz was angry,” Weaver writes in the report. “His fists were clentched (sic) and the muscles in his forearms were flexed. His voice got progressively louder. He began pointing his finger at me as he continued to yell at me and order me to relinquish custody of my evidence.”

A man who answered the phone this morning at Schultz’s residence did not comment.

“I don’t know what you’re speaking about,” the man said before hanging up.

Weaver transported the urine to the police department for storage and later returned to the hospital with a warrant to collect a sample of Graham’s blood. His blood was taken around 3:50 a.m., six hours after police were dispatched to the accident scene.

Mary Jenkins, spokeswoman for University Hospital, said hospital workers did the right thing.

“Our staff followed the appropriate procedures,” Jenkins said in an e-mail to the Missourian. “Our responsibility is to provide medical care for our patients and respect their privacy.”

Chief Boehm also said his officer acted appropriately.

“We feel that the officer’s actions were appropriate, but we acknowledge it was a very unusual set of circumstances,” Boehm said.

Boehm said the Police Department does not plan on pressing obstruction charges against Schultz.

“Everyone was trying to do what they thought was their job,” Boehm said. Boehm said the police department called the hospital Wednesday to set up a meeting to discuss how to handle a similar situation in the future.

“It’s important that we have proper communication with the hospital and how a similar situation should be handled in the future,” Boehm said.

After reading the incident report, Stephen Wyse, a Columbia attorney who has represented clients in drunken-driving cases, said the results of the blood sample Graham gave to police will determine which direction the case goes.

Wyse said he thought the actions of the arresting officer were strange. Wyse said he advises his clients not to submit to hand-held Breathalyzers or field sobriety tests because they are unreliable and subjective.

“The officer was oddly aggressive,” Wyse said. “It struck me as a person fixated on something other than the normal professional agenda.”

Graham issued his first public statement after his arrest Tuesday evening in which he apologized for any embarrassment he has caused.

“There is a legal process that has to be worked through, and I’m doing my best to cooperate with everyone involved,” he said. “I take full responsibility for my actions, and I will abide by what the final decision is in my case.”

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Tom O'Sullivan October 25, 2007 | 8:05 a.m.

I realize Bob Murray is just doing his job but Stephen Wyse is an idiot. I think the Missourian could find a more competent attorney to comment on these matters. Wyse is the laughing stock of the legal profession in this community. No one takes him seriously.

Tom O'Sullivan
1407 Rosemary Lane

(Report Comment)
Nicole Nichols October 25, 2007 | 2:57 p.m.

To Deputy O’Sullivan, If Mr. Wyse is an idiot then how did he convince a jury that his client was not guilty of DWI earlier this summer. I understand some police resent Mr. Wyse because he has successfully sued police for violating the civil rights of Missourians. Before Deputy O’Sullivan insults a lawyer’s professional reputation he might want to consult his attorney.

(Report Comment)
Karri karri October 26, 2007 | 9:02 a.m.

Mr. Wyse hasn't won any DWI's in Boone County in recent memory. And that sounds like a threat from Ms. Nichols, who happens to be Mr. Wyse's receptionist. Might that be a threat from the big man himself? Not very brave of him I must say.

(Report Comment)
Nicole Nichols October 26, 2007 | 11:31 a.m.

To Karri Karri, yes I do work for Mr. Wyse and yes I did use my real name but as for your knowledge of recent DWI trials it can be updated if you talk to City Prosecutor Robert Rinck or Judge Asel. In fact you could just simply check the courts records. I found Deputy O’Sullivan’s comments offensive, unprofessional and just plain wrong seeing as in criminal and civil rights matters numerous attorneys call Mr. Wyse for his opinion and help on cases.

(Report Comment)
Kansas Wiley Stafford October 29, 2007 | 12:57 p.m.

I agree with Sergeant O'Sullivan.
This statement-
“The officer was oddly aggressive,” Wyse said. “It struck me as a person fixated on something other than the normal professional agenda.”

-is deliberately inflammatory and irresponsible. I'm not sure why the Missourian chose to quote him, either.

Wyse's statements and the behavior displayed here by his receptionist are most unimpressive.

(Report Comment)

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