Catholic Priest put on administrative leave after DUI and weapons charges

Photo  taken by Father Scott Joseph Garrett (holyrosaryalaska.org)

Photo taken by Father Scott Joseph Garrett
(holyrosaryalaska.org)

Lenin Lau/ Sun Star Reporter

April 8, 2014

A Fairbanks Roman Catholic priest who serves as the University of Alaska Fairbanks St. Marks parish is facing a trinity of charges of driving under the influence, possession of marijuana and weapons violation.

According to the police report Father Sean P. Thomson was pulled over on George Parks Highway on March 24 next to Denali National Park and preserve.  State Trooper Christopher Bitz noticed a blue GMC pickup truck speeding at 79 mph in a 65 zone and swerving over the center dividing line.  Fitz noted that the priest seemed disoriented and confused, who handed the trooper a receipt when asked to produce his vehicle registration.  Bitz went on to ask Father Thomson if he had any any weapons in the car, to which Thomson said he had a .357 in the back seat.

When Fitz searched Thomson, he found a small bag of marijuana in his sweater pocket, as well as a 9mm pistol in his back pocket he failed to disclose to the officer.  Alaska law permits individuals over 21 to carry concealed weapons without a permit as long as the gun is legal and registered and upon contact with a peace officer, the officer is informed about the weapon.  It is illegal for an intoxicated person to carry weapons.

The trooper then administered a breathalyzer test, and the priest blew a BAC of .247,which is more than 3 times the legal limit of 0.08.  Thomson was booked at  The Healy Trooper Post, where, according to Bitz, Thomson refused to take another more accurate Datamaster test, stating he knew he was drunk and felt the test was unnecessary.

The following day Thomson was arraigned at Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks, where he pleaded not guilty to charges of DUI, drugs misconduct, refusal to take a chemical alcohol test and two counts of weapons misconduct for possession of a weapon while intoxicated and failing to inform troopers about the 9mm in his back pocket.  He was released on $5,000 bail.

According to legal coordinator Ronnie Rosenberg, Father Thomson has been put on administrative leave, although he still remains a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks.  A diocese is an area covered by a certain bishop.

Rosenberg also noted that the Diocese of Fairbanks will fill the position at Saint Mark’s University Parish with other priests and staff, and that there may be some interruption of services.

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