Metro Weekly

Anti-Gay Republican Gets Probation for DUI Arrest

North Dakota State Rep. Nico Rios plead guilty to a drunk driving charge, but has refused to resign from office.

Nico Rios – Photo: Gage Skidmore

The North Dakota Republican who insulted police with anti-gay slurs after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving has been sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation.

State Rep. Nico Rios (R-Williston) was sentenced earlier this month after pleading guilty to drunken driving. He received a 10-day suspended jail sentence and was required to submit to a mandatory evaluation — which typically involves drug testing —  and to listen to a victim impact panel, where members share stories of how their lives were affected by intoxicated drivers.

Rios was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000, and a separate fine of $50 for an open container violation.

Prosecutors ended up dropping a separate misdemeanor charge of “refusing a chemical test” against the first-term lawmaker.

Mark Friese, a criminal defense attorney, told The Associated Press that Rios’s driving privileges would be suspended automatically for 91 days due to his guilty plea and conviction. He noted that the suspended sentence is consistent with other sentences handed out for similar offenses.

“It does not appear that he was treated more harshly than other people in similar situations,” Friese told the AP. “My guess is that the judge recognizes … there are multiple entities here that are going to hold Mr. Rios to account.”

Footage from police body cameras showed Rios cursing out an officer after being stopped. He referred to one of the officers with homophobic slurs, and questioned the officer’s accent. Upon finding out the officer was from England, Rios ranted about how England had been “taken over” by migrants.

He also appeared to try to use his position as a state legislator to intimidate the officers by threatening to call the North Dakota attorney general about the situation.

Following his arrest, several Republican officials, including North Dakota House Majority Leader Mike Lefor, called for his resignation.

Last week, Lefor removed Rios from his seat on the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over law enforcement and legal matters. In doing so, Lefor argued that it wouldn’t be fair for law enforcement officers to testify in front of a committee of which Rios is a member.

Thus far, no additional action has been taken to suspend or expel Rios or strip him of his floor privileges. House Republicans, who control the chamber by an 82-12 margin, could choose to force a vote on the matter but have not done so. 

Rios has previously said in public statements that he plans to seek help for alcoholism but has no intention of resigning.

He also took responsibility for his behavior, which he characterized as “disgusting action,” and apologized “to those I have hurt and disappointed.”

He said last month in a statement that he was “100% committed to making repairs for my actions and straightening out my life.”

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