School board candidate was arrested last July | NevadaAppeal.com

School board candidate was arrested last July

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

A Carson City resident running for a seat on the School Board of Trustees was arrested in June 2005 on suspicion of driving under the influence. A judge found him not guilty in December.

Joe Enge is running for the District 3 seat against incumbent James Hukari, who is completing his first four-year term. Enge said he hoped someone else would run as an opponent, but when no one filed, he took the risk to make sure someone challenged ideas.

“Throughout this campaign, I’ve stuck to the issues and will continue to do so,” Enge said. ” … (This) is not an issue. The charges were dismissed. The real issue is student learning, student achievement.”

Enge, 43, was employed as a history teacher in the Carson City School District. His contract was bought out in March of this year.

Enge went to trial in December on a charge of misdemeanor driving under the influence.

According to the sheriff’s report, Enge told the deputy on June 26 he consumed two beers. Two breath samples that were taken later, according to the report, indicated Enge had blood alcohol content levels at 0.25 and 0.26 – more than three times the state legal limit of 0.08.

Two priors – a DUI from Pahrump Justice Court in September 1997 and Las Vegas Township Court in October 1997 – fell outside the seven-year range that could have resulted in felony prosecution. He was cleared of misdemeanor DUI at the trial in December.

“I was found absolutely innocent,” Enge said.

At trial, Enge pulled partial dentures from his mouth and showed them to the judge, according to Prosecutor Michael Bongard. Dentures can cause alcohol to pool and cause a higher concentration of alcohol in breath tests.

“My take was the deputy clearly remembers asking if he had dentures and the officer’s testimony was the guy said no,” Bongard said. “And in trial he gets up and pulls a partial out of his mouth.”

“I’ve heard of (dentures being used in a defense). I’d never seen it until this case.”

Protocol requires deputies to check a suspect’s mouth for foreign objects, including dentures, according to Enge’s attorney, Larry Dunn. The field sobriety tests alone were not sufficient evidence for the judge for a conviction, he explained.

“The case was dismissed based on the fact that the results were compromised by dentures that were not detected by the officer and they should have been,” Dunn said.

Enge was arrested at 10:58 p.m. June 26 on Highway 50 near Kit-Kat Road. The arrest was made after Deputy Ryan Powell saw “a gold passenger car leave the parking area of the brothels at a high rate of speed,” according to the arrest report.

In an interview with the Appeal, Enge explained he was on his way back from Reno, stopped in Virginia City to visit a friend and was traveling back home to Carson City.

“I was driving home after catching a flight back to Reno,” he said. “It was late and I was tired. The guy mistook fatigue for something else. I asked for the probable cause. He made something up.”

According to the sheriff’s report, Powell asked Enge if he was coming from a brothel, to which Enge replied, “Yeah, I didn’t want to admit it.”

In an Appeal interview, Enge said the deputy began machine-gunning him with questions about where he was and where he was going. Enge said the deputy added in the brothel comment to color the report. He denied the statement.

“Of course not,” he said. “In my opinion, this accounts to character assassination to avoid discussing the real issues.”

Enge was taken to Lyon County jail, upon which the deputy noticed Enge had slipped from his handcuffs.

“Enge … repeatedly told me no when asked to do something,” Powell wrote.

Two days later, the judge released Enge on his own recognizance, dropping the $21,132 bail amount because charges were still being formalized. The Lyon County District Attorney’s Office formally charged Enge with misdemeanor DUI in August 2005. He was cleared in December.

• Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.