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Trooper: House leader failed sobriety tests, called Legislative Council intern his attorney

Trooper: House leader failed sobriety tests, called Legislative Council intern his attorney

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North Dakota House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Louser told a Highway Patrol trooper who arrested him for drunken driving a week ago that he had consumed three drinks at two area bars, and called a legislative intern he was with his attorney.

The 49-year-old Minot Republican who has been in the Legislature since 2011 failed three field sobriety tests and refused another, and at jail tested for a blood alcohol content of 0.117%, over the 0.08 legal limit, Trooper Brian Mehlhoff states in an affidavit.

Louser was charged Friday with misdemeanor DUI. He's scheduled for an initial appearance on May 12. Court documents don't list an attorney for him. He told the Tribune that he had not seen the court filings and had no comment outside of a statement he released shortly after his arrest.

Louser was pulled over on Expressway between Mandan and Bismarck shortly before 1 a.m. on Friday, April 16. Mehlhoff said he activated his emergency lights after observing the 2021 Cadillac Escalade that Louser was driving cross the center line "multiple times."

Louser did not immediately pull over and didn't stop until the traffic light at the intersection with Washington Street. Mehlhoff said Louser and his passenger "looked surprised to see me," and that he smelled alcohol and noticed that Louser's eyes "were bloodshot."

Louser allegedly told the trooper he had two drinks at the Lonesome Dove bar on the Strip in Mandan and one drink at the Corner Bar in downtown Bismarck. 

Louser declined to do a partial alphabet sobriety test, missed one number on a backward count test and failed a finger count test, according to Mehlhoff. An eye test indicated Louser was above the legal limit for driving, the trooper said.

Louser initially refused a breath test, and at that point Mehlhoff arrested him. Louser then said he would take the test to avoid arrest, but Mehlhoff told him he already was under arrest and could take the test at the jail. Louser then said he wanted to speak to his attorney, who was a passenger in his car.

Mehlhoff identified the passenger as Katie Winbauer. Winbauer is an intern this session for Legislative Council, the Legislature's research arm. Winbauer also is an occasional contributor to the Tribune's opinion page. Winbauer has attended law school, but she told the Tribune she is not a licensed attorney.

"I did kind of talk with Scott about what was happening, but no, I’m not his attorney or anything like that," she said.

Winbauer said her mother works in Bismarck for Louser's real estate company.

"My mom and some other Realtors had been together that night, and I was at the same bar as Rep. Louser, and so we were talking about going to visit my mom and those other Realtors," Winbauer said. "So right around the time that the bar was closing, Scott said that he would take me there ... and then head home."

Mehlhoff said he gave Louser and Winbauer more than 10 minutes to talk, then handcuffed Louser, took him and Winbauer to the Burleigh Morton Detention Center, dropped Winbauer off in the lobby and gave Louser the Breathalyzer test. Louser was later released to the custody of Winbauer's mother, Tammy, and no booking photo was taken. Patrol spokesman Sgt. Wade Kadrmas has said that is standard practice for nonviolent misdemeanor offenders who promise to appear in court.

Court documents list no charges against Katie Winbauer.

Kadrmas earlier declined to release trooper dashboard video of the arrest, citing the ongoing investigation. State's Attorney Julie Lawyer also declined to release any more information, citing the "open investigation/prosecution."

Louser issued a statement the day following his arrest in which he said "transparency and accountability in public service has become increasingly important in our society."

"I have begun taking what I believe to be the necessary next steps including an evaluation process. I want to apologize to those close to me, the residents of District 5, my colleagues in the state Capitol and to so many others for any disappointment this may have caused," he said. "Finally, as I work to rebuild any lost trust, I want to ensure that something like this will never happen again."

The only other listing for Louser in state court records is a vehicle registration violation from 2020. He paid a $20 fine for the citation.

House Majority Leader Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, earlier told the Tribune that Louser doesn't have a history of alcohol issues and that "folks like us should be willing to give him a break.”

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