Karis Begaye arrested for DUI in Arizona in April

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CROWNPOINT — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has confirmed his daughter, Karis Begaye, has left her employment as legal counsel for his office.

Begaye said the resignation complied with procedure within the President's Office.

Karis Begaye's departure last week came after she was accused of being involved in a vehicle collision and was arrested for driving under the influence in Arizona in April.

A press release from the President's Office on May 8 stated she was placed on administrative leave and had entered rehabilitative services.

"We have a system in place where a person that goes through rehab or any person that has issues with alcohol, with addition or those types of things, we run them through a program for 30 days, and then they resign. That's the normal process, and that's the process we followed," the president said.

"We want to help them. We want to restore them, we want to get them back on their feet before they seek other employment," he added.

Begaye spoke to The Daily Times after participating in a presidential candidate forum Monday evening at Navajo Technical University in Crownpoint.

When asked about the legal situation surrounding his daughter, Begaye said he did not have any information.

The Coconino County Attorney's Office in Flagstaff, Arizona, has not filed a complaint against Karis Begaye, according to Flagstaff Justice Court.

President Begaye said questions remain about the incident, including why the media have not asked about the condition of the semi-trailer truck driver at the time of the accident.

"Was he driving with fatigue? Was he consuming hard drinks? Was he drinking? No one ever questioned the driver of the truck that ran into her, when he changed lanes into her lane," Begaye said.

In an April 22 report released by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Karis Begaye told a state trooper she was traveling between 75 and 80 mph in the right lane when a commercial vehicle entered the lane and sideswiped her.

President Begaye said his daughter left private practice in Albuquerque to work for the Navajo Nation Department of Justice because her only incentive was to help the tribe.

He commended his daughter's work and the tenacity of the legal system throughout her employment with the Justice Department and his office. He said she took on issues and addressed concerns such as those facing residents in the former Bennett Freeze area in Arizona.

She worked with the people to gather information and facts about how they were being treated and how obligations remained unfulfilled by the federal government, Begaye said.

"I think it was a heartfelt move to work with them," he said.

She worked with members of Congress to secure the tribe's authority over business site leases and to sustain operation of the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, in addition to overseeing the purchase of two ranches in Colorado and securing housing for Navajo students attending the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, he added.

Karis Begaye was arrested April 22 for one felony count of criminal damage and for endangerment, driving under the influence and extreme DUI, all misdemeanors, according to court records.

The police report states Begaye was driving a black 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe when she rear-ended the back side of a semi-trailer truck then struck a guardrail while driving in the northbound lane of Interstate 17 near Flagstaff.

State troopers found a broken bottle of vodka lying on the asphalt at the scene and an open bottle of tequila inside the Tahoe, which is owned by the tribe's property management, according to the report.

Karis Begaye told a trooper she had consumed two glasses of wine prior to the collision, and a state officer reported she had a moderate odor of alcohol on her breath, slurred speech and red, watery eyes, the report states.

She was transported to the Flagstaff Medical Center for medical treatment. While there, two tubes of her blood were drawn after troopers obtained a search warrant.

Begaye was arrested after being released from the hospital and was taken to the Coconino County Detention Facility, where the staff completed a portable breath test.

She registered a 0.16 blood-alcohol content on a breath test, the report states.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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