Sacramento County prosecutor faces drunk driving charges after Highway 50 collision

12/26/2013 12:00 AM

12/25/2013 4:46 PM

For the second time in his career, a Sacramento County deputy district attorney faces drunken driving charges after getting into a car accident.

The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office this month filed a criminal complaint in Superior Court against Alan Scott Hengel, 58. The complaint alleges that Hengel had a blood alcohol content of 0.10, above the 0.08 legal limit in California.

Around midnight on Oct. 31, Hengel was driving approximately 70 mph westbound on U.S. 50 near Kyburz when he failed to negotiate a curve, crossed the median and hit an oncoming truck, according to a report from the California Highway Patrol.

Hengel blamed the driver of the other vehicle for the accident, then refused to submit to a drunken driving test, the report states.

Hengel did not return messages left on his phone at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and sent to his office email account this week. Hengel has worked for the District Attorney’s Office for 23 years, including the last several on the insurance fraud unit. He earns $144,000 a year.

Steve Grippi, Sacramento County’s chief deputy district attorney, said he could not discuss the circumstances of Hengel’s case, except to say that his office is conducting its own investigation. Any workplace discipline would be resolved through civil service.

“Our deputies are intimately aware of the law and know the dangers of DUI,” Grippi said.

Hengel’s response to the crash made a difficult situation worse, said Raphael Townsend of South Lake Tahoe, the driver of the oncoming truck.

“He crossed a double line and plowed right into me,” Townsend said. “Then he had the audacity to say I caused the accident.”

Hengel told the Highway Patrol that Townsend’s truck hit his car because Townsend was driving partially in Hengel’s westbound lane, according to the accident report. The officer, however, found that Hengel’s car hit Townsend’s truck in the eastbound lane, then went back across the westbound lane and down an embankment.

Hengel refused a breath test on the scene, saying he “didn’t see how that would be necessary,” the officer’s report says. Hengel had watery eyes, smelled of alcohol and a blood test administered later at a hospital showed he was intoxicated, the report states.

Hengel later refused to cooperate with his own insurance company, which held up the claims process, Townsend said. Townsend said he suffered spine and neck injuries in the accident and has not resolved his medical claims.

“This has turned out to be quite a fiasco,” he said. “You would hope he would do the right thing. Instead, he has just tried to make sure he doesn’t get in trouble.”

Hengel was charged with driving under the influence in 1997 in Sacramento County, but a jury found him not guilty. The California attorney general’s office prosecuted Hengel because it would have been a conflict of interest for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office to handle the case.

Prosecutors alleged that Hengel got into an accident on Sunrise Boulevard after leaving the Sloughhouse Inn in his county-issued car, records state.

A jury found Hengel not guilty at trial after a Municipal Court judge granted his motions to exclude evidence about his field sobriety tests, according to court records. The records do not indicate the results of those tests or why they were excluded from the trial.

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