I Have Some Problems With the Seattle Weekly's Mike McConnell Interview

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee April 14, 2010

Over at the Seattle Weekly, veteran reporter Rick Anderson has an interview with Caffe Vita/Via Tribunali owner Mike McConnell about the  DUI, hit and run and assault charges he's facing following an incident on Capitol Hill earlier this month.

A number of news outlets were chasing McConnell after the news about the incident broke (right here on but Anderson got the first interview with the coffee and pizza mogul.

That might be because, as Anderson writes, "I've known him since he was a teen and he's a friend of my son Erin."

Well, now that we've gotten that pesky full-disclosure thing out of the way, let's go straight to Rick's story:

"Sounds like you screwed up," I told him. Here's what he, and his attorney, told me:

McConnell hit the other, older car stopped for a light around 6 p.m., but there was zero damage to both cars. The attorney (McConnell's corporate attorney, who'd dined with McConnell and was following behind him enroute to one of their businesses), stopped and became a witness as well. The other driver, on his way to work at a pizza parlor, smelled the "couple of beers" McConnell says he'd just drank and told McConnell - who was driving a newer Mercedes - he'd forget the incident for $1,500. He offered to go to a cash machine with McConnell and the attorney at that moment. McConnell refused. He did not punch or assault the other driver, he says. He legally parked his car at the scene and walked away - a mistake, he admits. Police tracked the car which is registered to his coffee business, where they learned McConnell was at one of his eateries, and arrested him. At the East Precinct, he refused a Datamaster breath test, was booked, and later bailed out.

McConnell says he regrets what happened, but says he was disappointed to read some of the anonymous blog comments about him. One reporter [ed note: me] also called the state liquor board and ask what might happen to McConnell's commercial liquor licenses if he's convicted of DUI. (A spokesperson indicated revocation was possible).

"I've got 20 licenses for my places," McConnell says, and losing them could affect the jobs of some of his 250 employees. "I made some poor choices," he says, "but I don't think I deserved to get crucified for that."

Given his history with McConnell, I find Anderson's piece to be a bit troubling.

McConnell absolutely should get his chance to defend himself, whether in court or in print (I called him before I ran my story, and didn't get a call back), but Anderson's write-up seems overly dismissive of the incident, and paints McConnell as the victim of some harsh media smear campaign.

Maybe these allegations against McConnell are totally false, but I'm a bit disappointed that Anderson didn't ask McConnell why he refused a breathalyser test, and didn't press McConnell on his assertion that he never assaulted the other man involved in the incident.

I spoke with police earlier today, who told us that a fire department unit was called to the scene to treat the victim for "chest pains resulting from" being punched. That doesn't necessarily mean McConnell is lying, but I think Anderson could've been a bit tougher on McConnell, if only for the sake of keeping up the appearance of objectivity.

We obviously don't know who's telling the truth in this case. That's for a court to decide. But it seems like Anderson's maybe a little too close to McConnell to really get to the bottom of some of the ugly details of this incident.

I've got a call in to Anderson to see if he wants wants to chat about his interview with McConnell.

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