CCN reporter arrested on DUI charge for .06 blood alcohol level

August 21, 2013
Josh Walsh

Josh Walsh

By JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

CalCoastNews reporter and co-founder Karen Velie was taken into custody on Aug. 13 after a San Luis Obispo police officer arrested her on suspicion of driving under the influence. Officer Josh Walsh placed Velie under arrest after her blood alcohol test showed a .06. California’s drunk driving laws require an arrest if a driver has a .08 alcohol level.

The arrest comes during CalCoastNews investigations into activities at CAPSLO, the county’s nonprofit that serves homeless persons as well as wrongdoing over the handling of hazardous wastes.

Walsh said at the time of the arrest that he would have arrested her even if she had a blood alcohol level of as little as .01, Velie said. California law prohibits driving while intoxicated no matter what the blood alcohol level.

At the time of the arrest, Velie had just finished teaching a bridge class at a San Luis Obispo restaurant.

Twenty-four people attended the class, several of whom saw Velie minutes before the traffic stop. After the arrest, Velie spoke to the majority of the class members, all of whom said she was clearly not intoxicated.

“I only saw her have one glass of wine and she looked fine,” said San Luis Obispo attorney Stew Jenkins. “She did not appear to be under the influence at all.”

Medical doctor Gary Foresman agreed.

“I witnessed her. She was coherent,” Foresman said. “She was teaching bridge to myself and my wife and she was unequivocally not drunk when I left that night.”

Foresman left the restaurant shortly before Velie did.

Former San Luis Obispo police officer Mike Brennler said the arrest of Velie was out of the ordinary.

“In my 33-year law enforcement career, the standard procedure was to release someone who submitted to a breath test that demonstrated they were under the state limit,” Brennler said.

“Bookings in such misdemeanor cases were very rare.”

The arrest and its aftermath appeared to be directly connected to the news agency’s recent reporting on county homeless issues. It came following a months-long series of articles by CalCoastNews detailing activities of Dee Torres, CAPSLO homeless services director. Torres is the fiancé of County Supervisor Adam Hill.

Since the arrest, CalCoastNews opponents have used the alleged DUI as the focal point of a smear campaign targeting CalCoastNews and its advertisers.

Hill sent text messages to CalCoastNews advertisers Tuesday morning informing them of Velie’s arrest.

The text message and email campaign targeting advertisers followed directly in the wake of CalCoastNews reporting on a slander suit filed by Torres against Brennler, who is represented by Jenkins.

CalCoastNews reported on Aug. 19 that Brennler had challenged a sworn statement that Torres filed in her suit. Torres was not truthful in her statement, Brennler said. A hearing on a motion to dismiss the suit is scheduled for Thursday morning.

CalCoastNews also recently published text messages sent by Hill to a key witness in the case, in which the supervisor attempted to get the witness to change his story. That story, which appeared on Aug. 16 showed exchanges between Hill and Ralph Almirol, a former boyfriend of Torres. In the texts, Hill tried to get Almirol to withdraw his statement that he and Torres used gift cards that were intended for the homeless for themselves.


419 Comments

  1. R.Hodin says:

    There’s the facts of the incident, and then there’s CCN’s paranoid spin. To a reasonable person the difference is quite plain. Thanks for making it so plain, Josh & Dan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 6

  2. rogerfreberg says:

    Its fascinating that all of the folks who CCN has gone after seem to be attacking Karen and Company on this post…. what a bunch of losers.

    CCN is the only source of NEWS on the central coast that tells it like it is…. which makes it a target by the lowlife and the high and mighty.

    When someone has been called on the carpet… eventually all the facts come out and normally justice is served… if you are an ‘average citizen.’ I assume that Karen will be given the most serious penalty that caan be given… whereas, it was reported that one judge told the husband whose wife was killed by a drunk drive to… ‘get over it’… because the person involved was a ‘good kid.’

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 48

    • MarkJames says:

      It’s so obvious that the PD and their friends are out doing all these thumbs down. Yup, there is no way that the general public would ever agree that it’s OK for an arrogant cop to break the law and give an adult a DWI with a .07% BAC. The PD has been hanging on this site since the minute this story came out. It will be fun to watch it play out in court.

      and another thing, you’re freaking breathalyzer machine doesn’t work right. .07 to .06 in 3 minutes can’t happen and you know it. This case could set a precedent for other DUI’s during the same time farme as Karen’s test to be thrown out. Stupid is as stupid does, dumb Walsh.

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  3. slo says:

    Josh Walsh is an extraordinary officer who has plenty of experience. There is absolutely no reason to bash our local officers and their police department. Regardless what the others from the class say the DUI test shows a BAC of 0.06 (my understanding is it was actually a 0.079, we’ll let the truth come out in court) which may be less than the legal limit but is still much higher than a 0.00. I agree with Mr. Walsh and his decision to arrest Velie. We should be thanking him for taking a person off the road who has been drinking and could have caused a serious accident.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 53 Thumb down 19

  4. SnakePliskin says:

    Cal Coast News could have been a decent site… instead there is deceit, Dave Congalton, Kevin Rice, and Karen Velie continually making fools of themselves…

    The New Times has an interesting story on this fiasco…

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 68 Thumb down 32

    • cch says:

      Now that the facts are coming out, CCN has lost a lot of credibility in my opinion. I think it’s important to have a source of investigative journalism around here, but fabricating some grandiose conspiracy theory around a garden-variety DUI is just stupid.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 19

      • Cindy says:

        I suggest that you wait for the video. There is no proof that she ever blew a .079 for one thing and for another, this isn’t over yet. CCN has been in this position before and they always turn out right. Not all the facts are out yet. Sometimes there are good reasons to hold certain cards tight.

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        • Homer says:

          Here is what you and the people running this site don’t understand. If you are reporters and you run a story about an arrest, you don’t get to “hold certain cards tight” and be taken seriously as journalists. If you know information that will advance a story and not simply regurgitate information, then you need to run it. If this story involved anyone else, this site would’ve run a story with details from the police report. It would’ve run another story about the memo or statement or whatever it was that came from the city. It would, in other words, have “tried the case in the media” as some other poster ridiculously said it was not fair to do.

          Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 46 Thumb down 10

  5. Stunned says:

    Why would anyone in their right mind roll over on a .07? Being impaired and being intoxicated seem to be two totally and separate issues. Waiting to see video evidence of how few drinks she had but, then wonder how much she had before she got there that no one saw.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Pelican1 says:

    Trying Karen, or the arresting officer in the media, is simply wrong. Accusations were flying when Officer Oswald was killed by the young woman from Atascadero, People claimed it was unfair.. she was railroaded, wrongly convicted, etc.,.The same thing is happening here…only claims that she was targeted. Where’s the evidence? Where’s the proof?
    LET THE SYSTEM DO IT’S JOB…IT’S THE BEST IN THE WORLD!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 27 Thumb down 14

    • MaryMalone says:

      The “system” you advocate that we let it do its job is the same “system” that declared John Ryan Mason, SLOFD’s Psycho firefighter, innocent.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 26

      • Pelican1 says:

        The criminal justice system, like any system designed by human beings, clearly has its flaws. It does however, remain the best system to date.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

        • MaryMalone says:

          No kidding. So, please, save your lectures about criticizing a poor, baby police officer, yadda yadda yadda.

          We heard the same about John Ryan Mason, and every other local police officer who got himself (or HERSELF, as in the Lisa Solomon fiasco, about which we were also admonished not to pass judgment) involved in a controversy or scandal.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 6

    • Homer says:

      Please tell me you understand the depth of irony in your statement. Please.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 7

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