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

August 21, 2013
Josh Walsh

Josh Walsh


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.


People who are new to this area, or who have not followed political issues closely, may wonder why so many would jump to accept a conspiracy theory regarding the arrest of Ms. Velie. Those who have been here for a while and watched how our local governments work know exactly why.

Sadly, this county is very corrupt, and this includes city and county governments. A few years ago, an FBI agent told someone I know that SLO is the most corrupt county in the country. Based on what I have seen, I believe him.

City and County staff people and elected officials regularly and consistently ignore laws that do not suit their agendas. County staff members have told citizens, on the phone and even in emails, that specific laws are not being enforced because some County supervisor called and told the staff people to “make it fit” regardless of what the law says.”

County and city governments regularly defy State agencies that have caught those governments doing things that are blatantly illegal. High-level officials protect their friends, no matter what. Family members and friends of local officials get a whole different brand of ”justice” than other citizens. Clear evidence of fraud and other misdeeds by local government staff members and officials is given to the D.A., and nothing is done. I know a man who received death threats from a friend of one local elected official. The Sheriff and the D.A. were both notified, and neither did anything. Our toothless Grand Jury finds problems, and the local governments just ignore them. That’s how things work here.

In this kind of atmosphere, a lot of people are understandably wary, and much more likely to take the word of an ordinary citizen than one of our highly-questionable “authority figures”.


While I would not be surprised at the level of corruption in SLO, and I do understand there’s a NASTY good-old-boy/girl network (DCC and Rep both), so the malfeasance and possible “conspiracy” against CCN and/or Karen is not completely out of the realm of possibility; however, I still doubt that it was at this time. I think Karen had a faux pas and will have to deal with it, as millions do each year.

I do not think it takes away from CCN or her reporting abilities at all. Should a pattern emerge, then it might be a different thing. We should not be judged by the mistakes we make, but how we handle the fallout from them.


I know this article is ripe for conspiracy, but in addition to my previous comments, it seems possible that a reporter might be distracted by a cell phone call or text message while driving, which may also get law enforcements attention.


ANY issue that involves two or more humans is “ripe for conspiracy.” That is because humans enter into conspiracies every day, and it is to our advantage to be aware of the possibility of conspiracies. Otherwise, we would “ripe” for the picking of folks who conspire to take advantage of the clueless who are easily fooled because they are not aware of the possibility of conspiracies occurring.

Example: Richard Nixon and the Watergate break-in scandal.


Not enough information yet to comment on this particular instance but some things, IMO, should be mentioned.

Breathalyzers are notoriously inaccurate with known variability in the 10-15% range

Traffic accident statistics point out that the majority of fatalities have no alcohol involved at all. And that the ones that do have alcohol involved it is an assumption that impairment played a part, not a fact. (I do not condone driving with ANY alcohol but just want to point out the facts not the opinions)

It is clear that the best way to save lives on our roads is to remove INCOMPETENT drivers. We spend oodles of money fighting demon alcohol and not one thin dime on driver skills.


Good ol’ corrupt SLO. It will never end. It’s been going on for years.


Any Drinking and driving is something I personally ‘frown apon’… but the consequences are obvious.

However, i am very grateful to have an honest news source in the community



Could she also been on pot or prescriptive drugs, which might have also contributed to a suspicious driving pattern?


There was no suspicious driving pattern. Just wait until everything comes out and CCN gets the video.


Well that’s interesting. Maybe she was drunk enough not to remember facts.


So now we have the police version, which seems to differ quite a bit from what witnesses at the bridge class said in terms of Ms. Velie’s condition and appearance.

What seems important to me is the simple fact that the people at the bridge class have absolutely nothing to gain from saying she was fine and would have had nothing to lose if they had said she was inebriated.

The police have much to gain from saying she was inebriated, and much to lose if it comes out she was not.

Unfortunately, there are times when the police are not as honest as we would like them to be. The stories are in the news on a regular basis. Did the police “embroider” their story in this case? We may never know, but the dashcam records should help somewhat.


QUOTING THE NEW TIMES ARTICLE: “The writers then went on to link the incident to Velie’s recent reporting activities, attributing fallout to SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill and CAPSLO Homeless Services Director Dee Torres.”


What? Has the New Times traded off with the Tribune duties for Adam-Hill kiester-kissing?


QUOTING THE ARTICLE: “New Times obtained a city memorandum on Aug. 23, issued in response to Velie’s appearance on Congalton’s show and requests to the department for more information about the incident. The memo, from Chief Gesell via City Manager Katie Lichtig, denies Velie’s suspicions.”


Raise your hand if you are surprised that the same city government who rallied behind Psycho Firefighter John Ryan Mason (who nearly beat to death a civilian, leaving him with several facial fractures and other injuries, lying on a bar’s men’s room’s floor, and has subsequently gone on to re-hire Mason) has issued a memo supporting its own police officer.


unlisted, one single driving infraction (improper lane change) does not equate to a suspicious driving pattern. She wasn’t driving all over the road, she wasn’t weaving, she wasn’t outside the lines or something like that which would be a suspicious ‘driving pattern’. The officer was probably in her blind spot and like the report say’s, she wasn’t driving her own vehicle but was driving someone else’s truck. While most of us are aware of where our blind spot is in our own vehicles, not so with someone else’s vehicle especially a truck. You do realize that up to a .08BAC, anything below that is considered safe. A .08BAC is actually a very low BAC for an adult which is why anything below that is legal.

Also, the officer said that he had received a call to respond to an event (a 911 event). Did it ever dawn on you that he started to speed up and even if she had seen where he was when she decided to change lanes, he had accelerated considerable and it was the officer who was actually responsible for speeding and almost causing an accident? hummmm


Are you saying that anyone but Karen can make an “unsafe lane change” in front of most police officers and they will not get pulled over???

For clarification, a BAC of less than .08 IS NOT considered safe. While, a BAC of over .08 is considered DRUNK in California, a lower level can be driving under the influence.

After all the pro-drunk driving messages on this board, I now support lowering the BAC limit to .05.


“a BAC of over .08 is considered DRUNK”

LOL – It is not considered DRUNK, not even close to DRUNK. It is considered the point where a person starts to become impaired to the extent that they shouldn’t drive a vehicle because their reflexes aren’t at 100% any longer. .08% is actually very low and that’s why .10% was considered the point of impairment until MADD donated a load of money to a few politicians and got the limit lowered! That’s a fact. The only time a person is considered impaired at below a .08% is if there are medications or drugs involved.

the guy paso

I’m sure the video will show that (just like Teddy K.)’ Karen wasn’t the driver.


Beginning to think she may have been in your car when you got your DUI.



Well if she was, maybe the SLOPD has been after her for a long time. When the off duty ‘SLO”cop called the APD, he didn’t know who was driving yet, now did he?

(that is according to the police report BTW)

Not saying that Karen was in my car, just making a point based on your post. Are you a troll?


That would be as silly to think as would “beginning to think you, Flipside, are John Ryan Mason.”


Classic conspiracy thinking: When the facts start lining up against you, it’s just because the conspiracy is deeper than people know. Hence, the layers of tin foil just become thicker and thicker.


Hill is such an ass. I still question the mental capacity for those who would vote for this joke of a human being. This is a great example of why some cops are referred to as pigs. I put this cop in the as Coryi Pierce. Time to find out if this was a setup and hang those responsible.


I am still taken back by all the comments in this article proclaiming the drinking driving scenario that played out here against Ms. Valie (who I do not know) and yet none of you righteous people had no comments regarding the incident last weekend where a retired couple from Bakersfield are coming over to the coast and get wiped (KILLED) by a drunk driver who had no license, no insurance, no car registration, skipped out on a prior DUI where he had .14 alcohol level and was driving 100 mph. If you are taken the stand against drinking and driving which I totally support, then apply it to all cases of wrongdoing involving DUI’s. There was no outrage for Montes and plenty for Ms. Valie, What am I missing here?

By the way slocal, I play bridge regularly with a group of semi-professionals and have taken several classes. It is not only a retired persons game and I would like you to do some research before making such an inappropriate comment. Some people play poker, some bridge, some bingo, some slots, Why you would make a comment regarding Manse on Marsh Street I don’t know but it certainly shows your prejudice. Shame on you!


A few comments:.

1. I’m impressed that CCN is running this story. Ms. Velie could have buried it. Kudos for not doing that.

2. You don’t get a .06 from one glass of wine. Ultimately, DUI is about personal reaction time being slowed down and making driving errors. That’s what the officer observed.

3. What goes around comes around. Driving while under the influence is dangerous to the lives of others. You can’t really blame the folks CCN has been targeting for scrutiny for pointing Ms. Velie’s reckless and potentially criminal behavior.


Nothing impressive about damage control by Velie- This was going to come out anyway… so of course CCN wants to frame it in her favor ….Ridiculous article-She blew a .07-thats legally drunk-END OF Conspiracy!


QUOTING GALAXY TRAVELER: “That’s what the officer observed.”

No, that is what the city said Walsh said he observed.

This is the same city who allowed five days to pass before they bothered to bring in Psycho Firefighter John Ryan Mason in for questioning. This was after Psycho Firefighter John Ryan Mason beat down into a men’s restroom floor a civilian, after which Mason ran away and hid, leaving his victim with several broken bones.


Wow. It seems like we live in every bad Denzel Washington/Jake Gyllenhaal movie here in SLO, and only CCN, Dave Congalton, and CCN pundits know about it… This is better than Training Day!

-I believe that the law has been clearly and accurately stated here, and Ms. Velie is super lucky that the cop tested her at .06, or she would be looking at a felony vs. misdemeanor. For those of you who think it’s unfair, well life isn’t fair and get ready for the .03 bac law coming down shortly.

-For our wine tourists, many of them are responsible and have a sober driver or utilize one of our many winery transport services. Do I smell burgeoning industry? And, shame on you for suggesting that we warn tourists that they won’t be able to drive under the influence here- as if it’s a bad thing. Have you lost your mind?

-I’m pretty sure the Cop had no freaking clue who Ms. Velie is. Pretty sure he didn’t stalk her at her “Bridge Club Meeting”. And, pretty sure he isn’t out to get her. Of course Adam Hill jumped on that shit! He’s wacko- duh, we all know that! But don’t be acting like you wouldn’t scream it from the roof tops if he or Torres were arrested on a .06 bac.- all the hens in the hen house would be buzzing!

Full Disclosure: I am not a Cop, Cop Lover, Cop Hater, Dee Torres, Adam Hill, or Jan Marx (Or supporters of the above), and I am certainly not Biz Steinberg. I’m just someone who wants the facts, not the conjecture, and theories- although, some of you crazies are hilarious reading.

-Finally, really- Bridge Lessons? Bridge lessons with 24 people that didn’t involve the Manse on Marsh? And really, Gary and Miranda Foresman, Brennler, Jenkins…….You want us to believe that you are all sitting around practicing bridge and not gossiping? Girl please. Also, Gary Foresman left before Karen Velie, so he isn’t a credible source. I love Jenkins, “I only SAW her have one glass of wine”, ok well that’s Lawyer speak and she obviously had more than 1 glass as her tested bac came to .06, and Karen isn’t exactly built like a teeny lady.

Since Karen Velie is a public figure, I am super surprised that Stew didn’t suggest that she remain mum and not speak publicly about her and his recall of events. It’s amazing how the written and published word can come back to bite you in the ass. Right Adam?


Training Day starred Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, not Jake G.


Slocal, small point of clarification, if I may.

Gossip is the hobgoblin of little minds, as my high school English teacher liked to say (it’s a modified Emerson quote). So it’s not something I do, personally. We do actually sit around learning bridge. It’s quite a relaxing exercise for us. The first two lessons are free should you care to join!