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Dave Roepke, Published May 11 2010

Executive director of NDSU's Development Foundation wants his DUI case thrown out

The chief fundraiser for North Dakota State University argued in court on Monday that Fargo police had no cause to conduct the Feb. 5 traffic stop in which he was arrested on suspicion of driving drunk.

While Jim Miller admitted he had five or six whiskeys at Monty’s before he was pulled over just after midnight, he said he could not turn from Second Avenue North to the farthest-right lane of 10th Street due to snow blocking the lane.

Police alleged that a wide turn was the reason for the stop, saying he turned onto the middle lane instead of the right lane, as required.

“I didn’t have a choice,” said Miller, executive director of NDSU’s Development Foundation, a private fundraising group.

Miller testified Monday that though a preliminary breath test put his BAC at .121, he doesn’t believe he was intoxicated or that his drinking that night skewed his memory of his arrest.

Monday’s hearing, held in Fargo Municipal Court, was on Miller’s motion to suppress evidence collected after the traffic stop.

Sara Rasmussen, the officer who stopped Miller, said her shift was nearly over at the time and she was taking her car to the city garage. The video- and audio-recording devices in the car were off, she said.

Mark Friese, Miller’s attorney, said that violated police policy and deprived Miller of evidence that may have helped him.

After pulling Miller over, Rasmussen said he failed two sobriety tests that she conducted in her car, including the breath test.

“I continued to test him because I didn’t want to arrest him,” she said, as her shift ended at 12:30 a.m.

Rasmussen took Miller first to The Northern and then to the Stop-N-Go to have him perform two field sobriety tests, which she said he also failed. She said she wanted to conduct the tests inside to be fair, due to cold weather and icy sidewalk conditions.

Taking Miller to the two businesses was an unreasonable expansion of the traffic stop, Friese said. He argued Rasmussen could have performed alternative field sobriety tests instead.

Miller said that entering The Northern – a nightclub with topless dancing on its upper level – was a “total” embarrassment.

“Here I am in a top coat and slacks with two officers behind me,” Miller said. “It was like something from TV.”

Jodi Bass, a city prosecutor, said that Miller wasn’t ever taken into the strip-club portion of the bar, only to the basement. Cops ended up doing the testing at Stop-N-Go because there were people in the bar.

“There’s been no testimony they’ve been anywhere near the strippers,” Bass said.

Judge Thomas Davies did not make an immediate ruling. He said he expects to issue one within a week.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535