Washougal Mayor Sean Guard has pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree criminal impersonation of a police officer.
After he entered the “Newton/Alvord” plea Thursday in Cowlitz County District Court, he said it is not like him to plead guilty to something he knows he did not do.
“A Newton plea is pleading guilty without agreeing to the facts entered, but acknowledging that there is a simple possibility that a jury could possibly find me guilty,” Guard said.
A trial had been scheduled to begin Jan. 6.
Guard was stopped by a State Patrol trooper on Dec. 24, 2010, along I-5 near Kelso. The trooper responded to a dispatch issued after a 911 call about a person using emergency lights to get slower traffic to move out of the left lane.
In July, Guard had pleaded not guilty. If a jury had found him guilty, he could have faced up to 365 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Judge Edward Putka ordered Guard to pay a $500 fine, do 25 hours of community service not related to his position as mayor and provide proof that he apologized to the community for his criminal actions.
“If he complies with those conditions and commits no further violations of the law for two years, the judge will then vacate the conviction and dismiss the case,” Cowlitz County Chief Criminal Deputy Michelle Shaffer said.
The case will be reviewed on Feb. 2 for completion of community service.
In Guard’s statement, he said he apologized and took responsibility for doing anything that would cause another motorist to contact authorities.
“I have spent all of my life respecting and working on behalf of law enforcement officers,” he said. “I have an understanding of the responsibility that they have, and I am personally embarrassed that I would ever be accused of ‘impersonating’ a police officer.”
Guard said it was time for the issue to end — for the good of the community and his family.
“The tragedies in the last week remind me what real problems are in this world, and it is time for us to continue doing good things without this distraction continuing,” he said.
Guard said the traffic stop has changed him and his wife.
“We are the kind of people who would stop and help people who are broken down on the side of the road, lending a phone to call for help, changing a tire and even giving people a ride home or to help,” he said. “All of that has changed. Unfortunately as a result of all of this, we do not even take the chance that someone will misconstrue any intentions or offers of assistance.”
Guard’s statement concluded with an apology “for doing anything that has brought negative attention to Washougal” and an acknowledgement of appreciation for supportive calls and messages.
“In the end, it is less about me personally and more about what is good for our community,” he said.