Kansas Rep Coleman charged with traffic infractions, not DUI, after November arrest

Facebook/Aaron Coleman for Kansas
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Two months after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence on Interstate 70, Kansas Rep. Aaron Coleman was charged with two traffic infractions, and no DUI.

Last week, the Douglas County District Attorney charged Coleman with exceeding maximum speed limits and failing to yield to emergency vehicles. The charges, which were not publicly announced, were first reported Thursday by FOX 4 Kansas City. Coleman is also facing charges for misdemeanor battery in Johnson County.

The 21-year-old Kansas City Democrat, who has a long history of alleged abusive and erratic behavior, was arrested in the early hours of Nov. 27 for speeding and failing to yield to a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper.

When the trooper “observed signs of impairment” a field sobriety test was performed but results were not released as they were part of a pending investigation. The Highway Patrol did not immediately respond to questions Friday and why they suspected Coleman of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to court records, Coleman was driving 92 miles per hour in a 75-mile-per-hour zone and failed to immediately yield when the trooper tried to pull him over. The highway patrol said in November that Coleman exited the highway before pulling over.

In a court record last month, prosecutors said they were awaiting test results from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation before filing charges. A spokesperson for the Douglas County District Attorney’s office said Friday that Coleman faced no further charges.

Coleman is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment in April. State law prevents prosecutors from requiring him to appear in court over misdemeanor charges while the Legislature is in session.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been calling for Coleman’s resignation for months. In a statement Friday, Joseph Le, chief of staff for House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, said that position hadn’t changed.

“We stand by our previous statements and continue to encourage the Representative to seek appropriate mental health support and resign,” Le said.

Coleman is also facing charges for misdemeanor battery in Johnson County. According to court records he allegedly pushed, spit on and hit his brother before threatening to physically attack his grandfather in October.

The representative is seeking diversion in that case and is scheduled to appear in court next week. Prosecutors said last month they believed his Douglas County arrest made him ineligible for diversion, a process in which defendants agree to a set of conditions in lieu of prosecution.

House investigation

The twin criminal cases triggered an investigation in the Kansas House of Representatives that could result in the 21-year-old Democrat’s censure or expulsion.

Rep. John Barker, an Abilene Republican running the inquiry, said Friday he is taking a “wait and see” posture with the investigation and wants to see the criminal cases against Coleman conclude before acting. This could mean any action wouldn’t occur until after the end of the Legislative session. His two-year term ends in early 2023.

Barker said he planned to confer with the ranking democrat on the committee, Lawrence Rep. Boog Highberger, and determine next steps. He said he didn’t want to act without full information and that the decision to charge for traffic infraction, rather than DUI, reduced the severity of the allegations.

“There’s no hurry to go forward,” Barker said.

This is the second time Coleman has faced possible expulsion from the Legislature. An investigative committee was formed following a complaint last year alleging a pattern of abusive behavior toward women.

Though lawmakers at the time found the allegations against Coleman — including physical abuse of an ex-girlfriend — to be credible, they did not take action because his behavior occurred before he took office.

Since joining the House, however, Coleman has been arrested twice and was banned from the Kansas Department of Labor premises after he berated a security guard.

Coleman is the third Kansas lawmaker to face criminal charges this year but the only one to face a formal Legislative investigation.

Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after he allegedly kicked a student in the groin while substitute teaching. Sen. Gene Suellentrop, a Wichita Republican, drove the wrong way down Interstate 70 in Topeka while drunk. He pleaded guilty in October to driving under the influence and reckless driving.

Both remain in office.

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