DA drops charges against Stepovich

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) The District Attorney's Office has dropped a driving under the influence charge against Nick Stepovich.

Stepovich, 45, is District 10 chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska and owner of Soapy Smith's Pioneer Restaurant.

His name also was recently put forward by Rep. Jim Whitaker as a potential replacement in the House should Whitaker win the Oct. 7 Fairbanks North Star Borough mayoral election.

Stepovich was arrested July 7 by Alaska State Troopers on charges of DUI, speeding and failure to take a portable breath test. He still faces the refusal and speeding citations.

Stepovich was arraigned Friday. The DUI charge was dropped at the arraignment. He pleaded innocent to each count and was scheduled for a court appearance.

Stepovich said Friday he felt some vindication because he was not driving intoxicated and ''they knew it.'' But it's too late to repair the damage to his character, he said.

On the day Stepovich's arrest appeared in court documents, Whitaker suggested him as a potential replacement in the House should Whitaker become borough mayor.

''I've worked a long time in the Republican Party and grew up here. The way it was presented, the only thing people will remember is drunk driving,'' Stepovich said.

According to charging documents, Stepovich was stopped for speeding 72 mph in a 55 mph zone near 359 Mile Richardson Highway.

He refused to blow into the Breathalyzer, a noncriminal offense, failed the ''walk and turn test'' and the ''one-legged stand,'' troopers said. He also refused to do an eye test, troopers said.

A test done just over an hour later registered almost no alcohol in his system, the charging documents said.

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