Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse has pled not guilty to driving under the influence charges by State Attorney Ed Brodsky’s office over a high-profile car accident where Kruse appeared to be intoxicated when he crashed his truck into a tree.
The case received heavy public scrutiny after body camera footage showed that a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy skipped field sobriety tests and allowed Kruse to go home despite acknowledging that the Republican county commissioner showed clear signs of intoxication.
Brodsky’s 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office filed DUI charges against Kruse two months later on June 23.
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The case took its first steps in court Tuesday during a traffic arraignment presided over by County Court Judge Heather Doyle, although neither Kruse nor his attorney Jeffrey Haynes attended.
Doyle scheduled a pre-trial conference for Aug. 2 with Haynes, who had already submitted a waiver on July 14 so that Kruse does not have to appear person at pre-trial conferences — including Tuesday’s arraignment. He also officially entered the plea of not guilty on Kruse’s behalf on that same day.
Haynes declined to comment on the case, stating that his office has not received a copy of the evidence that the state plans to use against Kruse but emphasized a not guilty plea has been submitted in court. Kruse could not be reached for comment.
At the time of the accident, Kruse said he slammed on the brakes and lost control of his truck on the loose gravel road after a car sped around him. The deputy allowed Kruse to go home without a field sobriety test, citing that no witness had seen Kruse behind the wheel of the truck during the accident.
However, the MCSO later discovered evidence that Kruse was driving in its 911 log, and sent a capias request to the State Attorney’s Office for review.
In addition to the DUI charge, Kruse received a careless driving citation and was fined $155 for the accident. According to court records, Kruse also agreed on May 20 to attend a four-hour Basic Driver Improvement traffic school course by mid-August to dispose of his ticket.