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Contractor to SLO County Coroner gets probation for DUI 

A doctor contracted to conduct autopsies and other forensic pathology work for the SLO County Sheriff’s and Coroner’s Office was sentenced to probation after he was arrested for drunk driving in early March.

Dr. Gary Alan Walter, 68, was sentenced to three years of probation and fined more than $2,400 after he pleaded “no contest” in SLO County Superior Court on May 9 to a misdemeanor charge of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or above. Walter will also have to complete an alcohol-counseling program as part of his probation, according to court records.

According to SLO Police, Walter was arrested for a DUI March 9 just before 8 a.m. in the area of Tank Farm Road and Broad Street. Police officials declined to say exactly what his blood alcohol level was at the time of his arrest. Walter has worked under contract as a forensic pathologist for the county since 2005, according to Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Tony Cipolla. Walter and his company, the Tulare-based Microcorre Diagnostic Laboratory, are paid $200,000 annually to conduct autopsies and provide other forensic services, according to contracts obtained by New Times. Walter was also required to appear in court to testify in criminal cases, the contract stated.

According to a 2013 staff report to the SLO County Board of Supervisors, Walter is the only licensed forensic pathologist within 150 miles willing to take on contract work.

Cipolla said that Walter was not conducting business for the coroner’s office when he was arrested, and confirmed that he will continue his work for the county. 

“The Sheriff’s Office had serious discussions with Dr. Walter about our concerns regarding the incident,” Cipolla said in an email response to questions from New Times. “Since he is contracted through June 2017 the Sheriff’s Office will continue to honor that contract.” 

Walter’s case was handled by the California Office of the Attorney General to avoid a conflict of interest. 

Walter did not return phone calls seeking comment.

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