POULSBO — A Kitsap County sheriff's sergeant suspected of drunken driving in October was not arrested or charged with a crime, despite being found sitting behind the wheel of his personal vehicle, keys in hand, smelling of alcohol, covered in vomit and admitting to a Poulsbo police officer that he was drunk and had just driven himself home.
No outside law enforcement agency was called to the home of Sheriff's Sgt. Jim Porter to investigate the incident the night of Oct. 16, when Poulsbo Officer Jennifer Corn found Porter parked in his driveway, outside Poulsbo city limits, after receiving reports of a possible drunken driver leaving Regal Cinemas on Edvard Street.
After hearing details of the case, an experienced DUI defense attorney said it was "ridiculous" that no arrest occurred.
In her report of the encounter, Corn wrote that she had known Porter for about 18 years. Porter is a 23-year veteran of the office and was promoted to sergeant in 2003.
Fellow Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Dickson and Poulsbo Chief Al Townsend were called to the scene. Townsend later said Corn's actions were appropriate given the circumstances.
From a review of Corn's report and her body camera footage, obtained from the city by the Kitsap Sun through a public records request, it does not appear Corn asked Porter to perform voluntary field sobriety tests, did not ask him to take a voluntary field Breathalyzer, did not look in his car and did not ask whether he had taken any medications.
In fact, Corn is heard struggling with how to react and how to contain Porter, who did not follow her directions and told her to go away. Corn claimed that she did not know it was Porter until she saw him, dazed in his Jeep.
"I would like to pretend like this never happened, but I can't," Corn says in the footage, adding that she hoped there was nothing that would legally "stick."
Corn did ask if he were drunk and whether he had driven, to which Porter replied "yeah" and "yes," which is audible on Corn's body camera footage.
Earlier that evening, at 9:25 p.m., another Poulsbo officer had contacted Porter in the parking lot of the movie theater. An employee called 911 to report a highly intoxicated man sitting in his car and had waved off a suggestion from theater customers that he not drive.
Porter refused to show the officer his identification. He also refused an offer of a ride home or a call for a cab, but Officer Danielle Branes — who has since resigned from the department for unrelated reasons — determined the car was owned by a James Porter. In her body camera footage, which shows Porter in the Jeep, Branes says she can smell alcohol and later describes Porter as "totally wasted." Branes told Porter he was not in trouble but admonished him not to drive and suggested he toss his keys in the back of the vehicle. She asked theater employees to call 911 if Porter drove away, according to her report, and then left.
At about 11:10 p.m., a theater employee called 911 to say the Jeep had left, and Corn wrote in her report that considering the level of intoxication — as reported by Branes — she was concerned and drove the route to the registered owner's house off Clear Creek Road "to ensure he did not crash somewhere." Porter lives about 5 miles from the theater, outside city limits.
When Corn arrived at Porter's house, along with Reserve Officer Joshua Krebs, who was riding with her, she recognized an older model Sheriff's Office car parked at his house, which is when Corn wrote that she realized it was Porter. Corn is married to a Kitsap sheriff's deputy and is a former reserve deputy for the office.
"I just came to make sure you made it home, but seeing you in the vehicle I had to check on you," Corn says in the video. "I'm wishing I hadn't, but now I'm stuck."
"You are not stuck," Porter says to Corn.
"I am, because somebody saw you drive out of there," Corn says.
Read all the juicy details in the Kitsap Sun. You can see in the video all the officers go out of their way not to arrest him and lament the fact they didn't look the other way.