“I know, I made that law.”
That’s how Darius Elias replied to a police officer who explained the rules after pulling the MLA over for driving while using a cell phone.
Using a phone turned out to be only the first of his concerns. The officer would go on to charge Elias with refusing to provide a breathalyzer test.
The MLA for Vuntut Gwitch’in pleaded guilty to the charge earlier this month and was sentenced Wednesday.
Elias, who has no previous criminal record, received the minimum sentence available – a $1,000 fine, a 12-month licence suspension and a $300 victim fine surcharge.
The territorial court appearance was the first time many of the details of what happened that day were made public.
Around 11 a.m. on Thursday May 15 (previous reports included an incorrect date), a police officer in an unmarked car but wearing a full uniform pulled over Elias on Copper Road in Whitehorse, prosecutor Jennifer Grandy told the court.
The officer walked up to the vehicle and told Elias that using a cell phone while driving is illegal.
“I made that law,” Elias replied, before telling the officer that he had been on a speakerphone.
When the officer informed Elias that was still not allowed, he replied with: “I know, I made that law.”
Grandy said the officer smelled a strong odour of alcohol and asked Elias if he had been drinking. “No, last night,” he said.
Elias was told to exit his vehicle, at which point he told the officer he was an MLA, the court heard.
Outside the vehicle, the officer saw Elias had bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol.
He was ordered to provide a breath sample.
“I don’t want to blow into that,” he told the officer.
The officer told Elias that refusing a breathalyzer is unlawful.
“I don’t want to and I’m not blowing,” he said.
Elias was asked again, and then charged.
In court, when asked if all those facts were correct, Elias replied “pretty much, yeah.”
Later that same day, Elias would vote on the 2014 territorial budget.
In front of justice of the peace Sharman Morrison-Harvey, Elias didn’t admit to drinking anything that day.
“If I had known alcohol remained in my system from the night before I wouldn’t have been driving,” he told the court.
Elias said it has been a “rough couple of months.”
He told the court he is registered to participate in the IMPACT program in September.
According to the Yukon government’s website, as of December 15, 2012 anyone who wants to apply to have their license reinstated after an alcohol-related conviction needs to complete the program. The name stands for Information and Motivation for Positive Action and Choices Today.
This is Elias’s first offence, and he pleaded guilty at the earliest possible opportunity, said Morrison-Harvey when she agreed to the Crown’s recommended punishment.
Outside the courtroom, Elias didn’t say a word to the media that had gathered.
While Elias has admitted to refusing a breathalyzer, Premier Darrell Pasloski is responsible for a refusal of a different kind.
The premier is refusing to comment on what this conviction means for Elias’s future in the party, how much the Yukon Party knew about Elias’s problem and whether or not the MLA was impaired when he voted on the budget later that day.
Cabinet spokesperson Dan MacDonald said Thursday that the premier will not be making himself available to speak “and we won’t be commenting on it. However I can confirm for you that Darius remains a member of the Yukon Party caucus as of today. Beyond that we won’t be commenting on it.”
MacDonald wouldn’t provide an explanation for why the premier is not willing to speak.
In the days following his charge, Elias held a carefully controlled press conference where he admitted to struggling with alcohol addiction and said he is seeking “professional help.”
No further information about Elias’s treatment has been offered.
When Elias joined the Yukon Party in July 2013 after leaving the Liberals and sitting some time as an independent, the premier avoided questions on his sobriety but said all members of the Yukon Party caucus are expected to uphold the party’s code of ethics.
The News has reached out to cabinet officials and members of the party to try and get a copy of the code of conduct.
So far, no luck.
Contact Ashley Joannou at firstname.lastname@example.org