County Attorney: It Was Not Apparent Sheriff Was Intoxicated

By Vanessa Miller, Reporter

WASHINGTON, Iowa — On the night Keokuk County Sheriff Jeffrey Shipley was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Keokuk County Attorney John Schroeder was at the sheriff's office and said he didn't observe anything that would lead him to believe Shipley was under the influence of alcohol.

"It was not apparent to me that he was intoxicated," Schroeder told KCRG.com on Tuesday. "At the same time, I did not have all the information available to me that was available to the investigating officer."

The Washington County Attorney's Office, which prosecuted the case for Schroeder's office to avoid a conflict, dismissed the operating while intoxicated charge against Shipley last week because prosecutors didn't think they could land a conviction in Keokuk County. For starters, according to the Washington County Attorney's Office, Shipley handily won the 2008 election, indicating he has "widespread support" in the county. He also was involved in a tragic officer involved shooting April 4 that killed Keokuk County deputy Eric Stein and might have played to jurors' sympathy.

The Washington County attorney said he also believes it would have been difficult to get a guilty verdict because Shipley did not submit to any alcohol tests that night, and Keokuk County deputies and Schroeder were at the Keokuk County Sheriff's Office when Shipley was arrested. They probably would have rebutted testimony at trial that Shipley was under the influence, according to the Washington County Attorney's Office.

"I would have had to testify to what I observed," Schroeder said Tuesday.

The Washington County attorney agreed to drop the charges against Shipley as long as he complied with alcohol evaluation and treatment. And, because Shipley refused to submit to any alcohol tests, his license is now invalid for at least one year, a requirement in Iowa for OWI suspects who refuse testing. Shipley has not returned calls from KCRG and has not answered questions about how his inability to drive will affect his ability to perform his sheriff duties. Shipley released a statement last week saying he has wanted to "speak out" since the OWI charge was filed, but his attorney told him not to until the charges had been formally dropped.

Iowa Courts on Tuesday showed the motion to dismiss had been filed with a judge, but Shipley did not immediately return a phone call from KCRG.

Schroeder said Shipley spends much of his time in the Sheriff's Office as an administrator, meaning his driver's license is not as crucial to his job as a deputy's driver's license. "I don't think he does much of any patrol work," Schroeder said.

Shipley was not in the Sheriff's Office when a reporter from KCRG called Friday and Tuesday. Although Schroeder said he doesn't know how much Shipley will be hampered by his invalid driver's license at work, he said, "It would be better if he had a driver's license."

Schroeder said Shipley's decision to deny alcohol testing is one he has to live with. "That was a personal decision that he had to make," Schroeder said. "He has to live with the consequences and has to decide whether that was in his best interest or not."

Schroder said his office has received a few comments from the public since the charges against Shipley were dropped, and they all have been negative.

Shipley's attorney, Matthew Moore, said in a statement Saturday that his client will continue to serve as sheriff and is planning to run for re-election in the fall. "When this charge was made against him, Sheriff Shipley trusted the Iowa criminal justice system — a system he is a part of," Moore said in the statement. "The system has vindicated Sheriff Shipley."
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