Former judge Wulle takes plea deal in DUI case

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

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Former Superior Court Judge John Wulle has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in an alleged drunken driving case, in which he struck two vehicles while en route to a Salmon Creek supermarket.

Wulle, 66, entered the guilty plea Monday afternoon in Skamania County District Court to first-degree negligent driving, as part of a plea deal, according to his defense attorney Jon McMullen. He initially faced a DUI charge, a gross misdemeanor.

A judge ordered that Wulle must participate in eight hours of community service and a victim impact panel — an awareness program for offenders convicted of DUI or related charges for alcohol or drug use. He will also undergo a substance abuse evaluation and any necessary treatment, McMullen told The Columbian in a phone interview.

“This is a 66-year-old year man with a spotless record and is a pillar of the community. The sad reality is there was significantly more going on here than a 0.08 DUI,” he said on behalf of his client.

The case was handled by Skamania County Prosecuting Attorney Adam Kick and visiting Klickitat District Court Judge Jeffrey Baker to avoid any conflicts of interest. A phone call to Kick’s office was not returned Tuesday.

Wulle was arrested Aug. 28 at a Safeway store in Salmon Creek after witnesses said he hit a vehicle stopped at a nearby red light and then crashed into a parked vehicle.

One witness told Clark County sheriff’s deputies that she was stopped at the red light when a Toyota Solara tapped the back of her vehicle twice. The Toyota pulled into the Safeway parking lot and struck a parked vehicle, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in District Court.

The driver of the Toyota was later identified by deputies as Wulle. He left his car, carrying a bottle of vodka and walked into the Safeway. His car was still running and in gear, pushed against the vehicle parked in front of his, the affidavit said.

Deputies found Wulle at the store’s checkout area, arguing with employees who wouldn’t let him purchase alcohol. The officers said Wulle appeared to be “significantly intoxicated. He could barely stand upright without assistance,” court records state.

Two breath tests taken about two hours after the incident found Wulle had a blood-alcohol level of 0.094 and 0.088, according to court documents. In Washington, a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent is considered evidence of drunken driving.

Arguments presented by McMullen during the case indicated that some of Wulle’s behavior may have been caused by traumatic brain injuries he suffered years ago. McMullen previously told The Columbian that the injuries had a “severe impact” on his conduct.

“This is a sad situation. It’s easy to quickly point to alcohol but … there’s well-documented traumatic brain injuries, which have led in many ways to a degenerative physiological problem,” he said. “This case was far more complicated. Both the prosecuting attorney and judge very seriously took those things into consideration, which is one of the reasons why we ended up where we are in this case.”

Wulle’s license wasn’t suspended, McMullen said, and the judge gave him the option of either installing an ignition interlock device in his vehicle or not driving for a year.

McMullen said that Wulle told the judge he doesn’t plan to drive.

Wulle served as a Superior Court judge for 12 years and before that as a District Court judge for four years. He received multiple complaints while on the bench about his conduct but was also popular with many law enforcement officials. He was unseated in the 2012 primary election by David Gregerson.