- Associated Press - Thursday, February 8, 2018

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A Nebraska state senator charged with driving under the influence apologized for his actions Thursday and accepted responsibility hours after he was stopped on Interstate 80.

Sen. Mike McDonnell of Omaha was arrested in Sarpy County on suspicion of first-offense DUI, failure to stay in a traffic lane and refusing to submit to a breath-alcohol test.

McDonnell, a former Omaha fire chief, was pulled over by a Nebraska State Patrol trooper Thursday just before 1 a.m. on the interstate on his way home from Lincoln. Authorities say he twice refused to submit to a breath test.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and the decisions I make, but I also need to apologize to this (Legislature) for making a decision that was more about me than about the people I’m representing,” McDonnell said in Thursday morning in a somber legislative floor speech.

McDonnell apologized to his family and constituents as well and described his decision as “selfish.” In a gathering with reporters after his speech, the 52-year-old said he doesn’t plan to step down and promised that he would never drive impaired again.

McDonnell declined to specify where or with whom he was drinking, but said he was coming home from a late meeting. He said the meeting did not include any other state senators or lobbyists.

“At the time, I thought I was making a good decision,” he said.

McDonnell, a registered Democrat, was elected in 2016 to represent Legislative District 5, which includes portions of south and midtown Omaha.

At least three state lawmakers have been convicted of driving under the influence in recent decades, but all remained in office.

Former state Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha was ticketed for DUI in February 2013, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two days of house arrest, one year or probation and a $500 fine.

Former state Sen. Danielle Conrad pleaded guilty to first-offense DUI and refusing to take a breath test after she drove into a city snowplow in February 2007. Conrad paid $1,000 in fines, served a year of probation and had her license suspended for 60 days.

Former state Sen. Kermit Brashear of Omaha pleaded no contest to drunken driving in 1996 and was sentenced to six months of probation and a 60-day license suspension. He was fined $150. Brashear later became speaker of the Legislature.


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