LONGVIEW - Freshman state Sen. Joseph Zarelli, a Christian conservative, was found with a small amount of cocaine following a 1983 arrest, according to a police report.
Zarelli, in a taped interview with The Daily News of Longview, said the Edmonds police report was a lie. Zarelli was not charged with violating any drug laws.
Zarelli, a Vancouver Republican elected last year to serve 3rd District Congresswoman Linda Smith's unexpired Senate term, told the newspaper Monday he was targeted by Edmonds police because he is an Italian American.
Asked whether he had any memory of the 1983 incident, Zarelli said: "Yeah, I have memory of the incident. I have memory of three cops beating the (expletive) out of me. That's what I have memory of.
"You need to understand the Edmonds Police Department . . . at the time (was) corrupt."
As for why officers would want to rough him up, he said, it's linked to growing up as the son of an Italian American in Edmonds.
If the cops alleged he possessed cocaine, he said, "then I guess the (expletive) runs a little deeper than I thought in Edmonds lately. It's a tough world."
For his part, Edmonds Police Chief Tom Miller said, "I wouldn't even dignify his remarks with a comment from our department."
Records show that Zarelli, 34, was 21 when Edmonds police arrested him July 23, 1983, for driving with a suspended license and two municipal court warrants in July 1983. The incident report also
says Zarelli was carrying a tiny but usable quantity of cocaine, less than one-tenth of a gram.
A supplemental report said the Washington State Crime Lab determined it to be cocaine.
Zarelli was convicted of driving with a suspended license, a misdemeanor, and fined. No charge was filed for possession of narcotics, a class C felony.
Because it's such an old case, authorities were at a loss to tie up loose ends left dangling by the absence of any formal charge on the alleged drug possession, Edmonds police spokesman Steven Perry said.
Jim Townsend, Snohomish County's chief criminal deputy prosecutor, speculated that police might have decided to let military authorities handle it. Zarelli was in the U.S. Navy at the time.
Zarelli, who says he never touches alcohol or drugs now - didn't deny doing drugs in the past, but he wouldn't discuss the matter beyond remarking that he'd made a few bad decisions at a time when "cocaine was commonplace in school."
His current life as a family man, self-employed security consultant and law-abiding citizen are what should matter to the voters, he said.
The Daily News pursued a criminal records search because of Zarelli's answers to a questionnaire.