Tumwater judge arrested in DUI, hit and run case

A State Patrol trooper arrested Tumwater’s municipal judge Saturday on suspicion of driving under the influence after his sport utility vehicle allegedly struck two vehicles in two separate incidents and left the scene both times, according to a spokeswoman for the Washington State Patrol.

Tumwater Municipal Judge John V. Lyman, 65, was arrested at his Olympia home after reports of two crashes involving a 2000 GMC Yukon.

The first crash occurred at 2:11 p.m. Saturday when a Yukon struck a parked car in the Tumwater Valley Golf Club restaurant parking lot. The second occurred at 2:17 p.m., when the Yukon struck a vehicle from behind while it was stopped at a light at the intersection of Yelm Highway and Henderson Boulevard.

The victim in the second crash called 911 and followed the Yukon when it left the scene, State Patrol spokeswoman Brandy Kessler said Tuesday. The victim was surprised when the driver of the Yukon did not pull over to exchange information, Kessler said. The State Patrol met up with the witness and Tumwater police at the alleged hit-and-run driver’s destination, Lyman’s residence.

A witness who saw the first crash at the restaurant parking lot at the Tumwater Valley Golf Club was brought to Lyman’s home by Tumwater police, Kessler said. That witness identified Lyman as the person behind the wheel of the Yukon that struck the parked car, Kessler added.

Lyman was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, based on the actions in leaving the scene of two crashes and because a trooper thought Lyman smelled of alcohol, Kessler said.

Kessler said that after Lyman’s arrest, he was taken to the Olympia Police Department, and approximately two hours after the wrecks he registered blood-alcohol levels of 0.135 percent and 0.140 percent when he took two separate, legal breathalyzer tests. It is illegal for anyone in Washington state to operate a motor vehicle when their blood-alcohol level is above 0.08.

Lyman could not be reached for comment Tuesday at his Olympia law firm. Lyman’s attorney, James Dixon, declined to comment on the matter Tuesday and said Lyman also did not wish to comment.

Kessler said the investigating Washington State Patrol trooper did not book Lyman into the Thurston County Jail on Saturday because Lyman was compliant during interviews at his home.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Tumwater Police Chief John Stines said that Tumwater police are referring two misdemeanor charges – one count of hit-and-run of an unattended vehicle and another count of hit-and-run of an attended vehicle – to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The State Patrol is referring one count of driving under the influence to the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Kessler said.

On Tuesday, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Ed Holm said he has appointed a special prosecutor, Mason County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Susan Mason, to decide whether criminal charges are warranted. Holm said that his office has an inherent conflict of interest because it serves as the prosecuting attorney for cases in Tumwater Municipal Court.

Susan Mason could not be reached for comment Tuesday at the Mason County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Chief Stines said Tuesday that a pro tem judge will hear cases in Tumwater Municipal Court until Lyman’s potential criminal case is resolved. On Tuesday afternoon, Tumwater City Administrator John Doan confirmed that Lyman has agreed not to serve on the bench while his potential case is pending.

“We talked about it, and he felt it was a good idea also,” Doan said.

Doan said that Lyman is not on leave, has not stepped down, and is still getting paid for being Tumwater’s municipal judge. Doan explained that according to state law, a judge can be removed from the bench only if there is a conviction due to misconduct, or if a judge has a mental or physical disability that prevents him or her from serving.

“Obviously, this needs to get resolved for the judge and the city,” Doan said.

According to Tumwater’s website: “Tumwater Municipal Court hears misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor criminal cases including criminal traffic, all non-criminal traffic and non-traffic infractions, and parking tickets for violations occurring within the city limits. The court also has jurisdiction over actions brought to enforce or recover license penalties or forfeitures declared by city ordinances or state statutes. Tumwater Municipal Court handles only those citations issued by the City of Tumwater Police Department.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 jpawloski@theolympian.com