Heard on the Hill: A Guilty Plea

Posted September 20, 2010 at 6:20pm

An aide to House Minority Whip Eric Cantor pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving charge over the summer after she was arrested for driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated when leaving the Capitol complex.

Nicole Gustafson, who works as the Virginia Republican’s policy director, pleaded guilty in July to operating while impaired, according to court documents. The DUI and DWI charges were dropped, and she was given a 30-day suspended sentence, one year of probation and ordered to pay $400 in fines. The case is now closed, and Gustafson’s colleagues are sticking by her.

“Nicole has been and continues to be a valued member of our team, and we will work through this difficult time together,” Cantor Chief of Staff Steve Stombres tells HOH.

Gustafson’s ordeal began just after midnight May 7, when a Capitol Police officer saw the Nissan Murano she was driving run a red light at New Jersey and Independence avenues Southeast. The officer stopped the car and questioned Gustafson, whose “eyes [appeared] to be bloodshot and watery,” according to an affidavit submitted by the officer. He also “smelled a strong odor consistent with that of an alcoholic beverage.”

Gustafson said she was “coming from dinner with my boss” and “had a glass of wine with dinner.” She took a field sobriety test and was subsequently arrested.

At Capitol Police headquarters, Gustafson’s blood-alcohol content twice tested at .11 (the legal limit is .08). “I didn’t do anything but run a light because they didn’t lower a gate,” she told officers. “I want to cooperate, but I don’t trust what’s going on here.”

Take Five!

HOH is introducing a new feature today called “Take Five!” Every Tuesday, we’ll get to know a Member of Congress better through a series of five fun questions. We’re kicking things off with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairman Mike Honda (D-Calif.), who is also known as the House’s resident karaoke singer.

Q: Who do you think will win the World Series?

A: Given that the Oakland A’s are considering a move south to San Jose in my CA-15 district, I’m going to vote for the Athletics on this one.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone tonight — aside from your family — who would you dine with?

A: Gen. [David] Petraeus, to talk about alternative strategies for, and a complete rethink on, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. (Or Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates, to talk about more substantial defense cuts.)

Q: If you could live anywhere, not including your district, where would you live?

A: El Salvador, where I served as a Peace Corps volunteer and where I refocused my life on public service.

Q: What’s your hidden talent?

A: Fluency in Spanish, which always surprises folks given that I’m Japanese-American and chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Q: If you weren’t a Member of Congress, what would you be doing?

A: As a former educator, I’d be running the Equity and Excellence Commission to ferret out a fair fix to our education system (while fishing — for fun — between meetings).

The Metro Hero

Geoff Strobeck works to improve the nation’s transportation systems as an aide on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, but on Monday morning, he went beyond the call of duty.

Strobeck, who works as a staff assistant for two T&I subcommittees, helped nab a fleeing thief who had snatched an iPhone from another Metro rider’s grasp.

While riding the up escalator at the Federal Center Southwest stop, Strobeck heard a man shouting to stop a young man who was running toward the escalator.

“We saw the kid running at us, so we basically tackled him,” Strobeck tells HOH. “We didn’t bring him to the ground; we contained him.”

Strobeck and a few others held him for 15 to 20 minutes until police arrived and arrested him. The suspect, whose name isn’t being released because he is a minor, was charged with robbery, a Metro spokesman says. He apparently grabbed the phone from the rider as train doors were closing.

The owner of the phone eventually got it back. As for Strobeck, he went into work — a little late — but after a colleague who saw the incident relayed the story, nobody seemed to mind his tardiness.

Overheard on the Hill

“Enjoying coffee and a good ole gully washer (that’s a thunderstorm) with my mother on the screened porch. So lucky to have this time with her.”

— Sen. Claire McCaskill in a Sunday morning tweet. The Missouri Democrat took some time to enjoy the simpler pleasures of life back home.

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