Thursday, 30 May 2024

Medical examiner faces misdemeanor charges for January arrest

CLEARLAKE – A medical examiner arrested in Lake County in January is facing misdemeanor charges alleging she was driving under the influence and had a Vicodin without a prescription.

Dr. Kelly Arthur, 41, was arrested Jan. 13 in Middletown after a California Highway Patrol officer saw her drive through a crosswalk where a pedestrian was walking, as Lake County News has reported.

After conducting a field sobriety test, the officer arrested Arthur for driving under the influence. She also was found to be in possession of a small amount of marijuana and a single Vicodin pill.

California Attorney General's Office spokesman Abraham Arredondo said the Attorney General's Office filed a criminal complaint on March 27 charging Arthur with the two misdemeanors, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and possession of Vicodin without a prescription.

Because Arthur is often called as an expert witness in criminal cases, Lake County District Attorney Jon Hopkins asked the state Attorney General's Office to handle the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

Arredondo said a prosecutor out of the attorney general's San Francisco office is handling the case.

The Attorney General's Office can step in, said Arredondo, in cases where someone who works closely with a law enforcement agency is facing prosecution.

“It's not frequent but it does happen in all areas of the state,” said Arredondo.

On the day of her arrest Arthur, a medical examiner with Fairfield-based Forensic Medical Group Inc., was in Lake County at the time to give testimony in the murder trial of David Deason. She had conducted the autopsy on Marie Parlet, who Deason was convicted of murdering.

Santa Rosa attorney Jonathan B. Steele said he appeared in court on March 27 on behalf of Arthur, who was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

Initially, Arthur was arrested on felony counts but wasn't charged with felonies, which Steele said had been his initial concern.

He called the potential for felony charges in the case “absurd.” After discussing the case with the Attorney General's Office, “They came to the same conclusion, fortunately,” he said.

Steele said his office is having toxicology tests done to show that Arthur was below the legal blood alcohol limit of .08 at the time of her arrest. He said people who are impaired while driving can still be prosecuted even if they're below the limit, but it's his contention that Arthur wasn't impaired.

Regarding the charge relating to possession the Vicodin, Steele said Arthur does have a prescription for the drug.

Steele said they got a “good start” on the case last week. He said he'll continue conferring with the Attorney General's Office as he seeks a resolution in the case.

“At least we know we got rid of the two most serious charges,” he said.

The case will return to Lake County Superior Court for a settlement conference on April 20, said Steele.

Steele said he's not sure of how long it will take to resolve the case, as both private and government labs that do the kind of toxicology testing he wants for Arthur's defense are very busy right now.

The DUI charge against Arthur carries a maximum sentence of six months in county jail, a fine and a first offender's school, the latter to satisfy Department of Motor Vehicle requirements, Steele explained.

However, he said, no one gets the maximum sentence. If there are further reductions in the charges the penalties will change, too.

Steele said Arthur continues working as a medical examiner.

“It's just an unfortunate incident for someone who has an amazing reputation and career,” he said.

Steele added that it's a reminder that everyone is susceptible to these kinds of cases. “Anybody can make a mistake.”

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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