Former Wisconsin state Sen. Randy Hopper (R) was found not guilty by a jury Friday on a charge of drunk-driving, after mounting a court defense that his arrest in October was the product of a conspiracy by the public employee union members who had successfully worked to recall him from office earlier last summer.
The verdict was delivered Friday afternoon, according to the Fond du Lac Reporter.
Hopper and his attorney Dennis Melowski presented a case that public employee union members in Fond du Lac County, the place Hopper formerly represented and where he was arrested for the alleged DUI, have been out to get him for his support of Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public employees.
Melowski did admit at trial that Hopper drank as many as three and a half beers at a Green Bay Packers game on October 16, 2011, before driving home to Fond du Lac with his girlfriend, Valerie Cass. But they were able to persuade a jury for an acquittal, by casting doubt on the motives of both the arresting officer and the family that had phoned the police about Hopper’s driving.
Hopper explained that he refused to take a breathalyzer test at the county jail, because county employees had threatened him in the past. A preliminary test that jail staffers were able to take showed a blood alcohol content of 0.13%, above the 0.08% limit, but this was not admissible as evidence in the trial.
“The day everything broke loose in Madison, I had members of the union in my office who said, ‘If you don’t support us, we are going to destroy your life,’” Hopper testified at the trial. “We’re going to picket your kids’ schools, we’re going to tear apart your reputation, we’re going to have you recalled.”
Hopper and Melowski challenged the credibility of the arresting officer, Deputy Nick Venne, on the grounds that he had previously signed a recall petition against Hopper.
“I don’t have a lot of faith and trust in Officer Venne at this point because it seemed to me that he was out to get me,” Hopper testified, under questioning from special prosecutor Frank Endejan. “There are a lot of people who work in the county that have never met me personally that have sent me some of the most vile messages you have ever seen, sir.”
Also questioned by Melowski were Tim and Tammy Hicken — the husband and wife who along with their daughter first phoned the police about an erratic driver — about their having signed and circulated petitions to recall Gov. Scott Walker. Tim Hicken is a member of the union at the Fond du Lac County Highway Department. The petition drive was officially launched in mid-November after much build-up, a month after Hopper’s arrest, and ran through mid-January.
In response, the Hickens testified that they did not know who the driver was, when they first reported the erratic driving to the police, and followed him into the supermarket parking lot where he was arrested.
In addition to the backlash against Walker’s policies in 2011, Hopper simultaneously faced his own political headaches in the August election due to a messy divorce — and claims by his estranged wife that he “now lives mostly in Madison” after having an affair with a younger woman, Republican aide and lobbyist Valerie Cass.
That controversy might very well have made the difference in Hopper’s 51%-49% defeat by Democrat Jessica King.
Cass was herself in the car with Hopper, and reportedly became upset when he was arrested, and yelled at the family who had called the police.
During the ride in the squad car on the way to the county jail, Hopper tried to start a conversation with Venne, telling him among other things: “Don’t ever run for office, by the way.”
Eric Kleefeld joined TPM as an intern for the final months of the 2006 midterm elections, and then kept showing up for work. His other interests include guitars, old comic books and the politics of various English-speaking countries.
"I had members of the union in my office who said, ‘If you don’t support us, we are going to destroy your life,’” Hopper testified at the trial"
Hopper spewed crap like this at his trial.....and got off?!?!
What. A. Freaking. Joke.
Having seen WI juries come up with really bad decisions, the only positive outcome from all of this will be if Hopper wraps himself around a telephone pole sometime in the near future. With a quarter of WI drivers having DUI convictions on their record, it's amazing one can get anywhere beyond the local mailbox in that state.
Rolling Stone is reporting that Randy Hopper & His Swillin' Hop Heads have been signed to open for Ted Nugent on Nugent's Bummer of A Summer Tour. So far, only three dates, all in backyard kiddie pools, have been announced.
Hopper was recalled in July, 2011. The recall campaign against him began in March 2011, during the protests against Walker's union-busting bill. The election was on July 12.
So the arrest had nothing to do with Hopper's removal from office. the fact that he was a carpetbagger and that he was having an affair with a woman he hired for a cushy job in Madison were far more important factors in Hopper's defeat.
Kudos to Hopper's lawyer for succeeding with one of the most bizarre defense since the Twinky defense.
I'm stunned. How is getting busted for drunk-driving part of a union conspiracy? Did Hopper produce a receipt showing that AFSCME picked up his bar tab that night? And what sort of judge would allow such a ludicrous and non-tengential political argument to be made in his or her courtroom?
Karl Stein Font du Lac is a one-horse shithole that thinks it's a town. Of course, that describes about half of Wisconsin population--mostly the Republican half.
How much you want to bet that every member of this jury was a Tea Party Republican? If I had been the defense attorney representing this guy, that would have been the first thing I would have checked out about anyone in the jury pool and then worked hard at selecting only Tea Party Republicans to sit on the jury. And the judge would have been in on it since only a Tea Party Republican judge would have made it possible to pack the jury. Just guessing, but this acquittal stinks, based especially on the defense (with a nod from the judge) rolling out this ultra-partisan conspiracy theory, as if the defense attorney and the judge had already rigged the outcome.
It is for situations like this that the word "Gobsmacked" was coined. How the hell do you beat a DUI charge by saying it was conspiracy?
"Melowski did admit at trial that Hopper drank as many as three and a half beers at a Green Bay Packers game on October 16, 2011, before driving home to Fond du Lac with his girlfriend"Who drinks 3 1/2 beers at a football game then drives an hour and a half home and still registers a 0.13%?
Shortbus "Who drinks 3 1/2 beers at a football game then drives an hour and a half home and still registers a 0.13%?"
Has-been pols who lie about what they have been drinking.
@Shortbus There's an ancient story of Captain Fred Pabst, of Pabst Brewery, taking some well-heeled visitors on a tour and bragging that any one of his workers could down an entire pitcher of his product in one take. He asked Otto to show a doubter. Otto nodded and left the room for a moment. He came back, picked up a pitcher and drank it down. Afterwards, Captain Pabst sought out Otto and asked why he left the room. "Well", said Otto, "I didn't know if I could do it, so I tried it out first." Ask any cop about "a couple of beers". Watch their eyes roll.
You can refuse BAC tests in WI?If you don't give a breath test, the law requires a blood test be drawn here in MI.
The story I read on it said they could have forced a blood test. But they didn't.
Kellen Dunkelberger Endejan is a walker supporter... i see gop sees conflict of interest only if you are a democrat.
Kellen Dunkelberger RTFA... Policy is they don't force a bloodtest for first offense without injury or damage involved, but they do prosecute for the crime of refusing the breath test. Penalties for that are greater than for a first DUI. Hopper faces that trial next.
It's always instructive to see the manner in which Republicans take responsibility for their own actions.
Wildeye LOL Republicans take responsibility for their own actions, once they finally don't have unions to blame for everything.
Not a shock. Every Republican in Wisconsin that's in trouble for anything (politically or otherwise) is using this defense. "Waaaaahhhhhh" They are all out to GET ME.
Yeah? Well, DUHHHHH. And after that [explicative] massive overreach that they pulled? OF COURSE you're a target. YOU painted it there.
I don't know if the "out to get me" thing applies in this case or not. Just don't know. But these Republican guys and gals up there have all made a TON of enemies. And its extremely personal. We'll see a lot more of this kind of thing moving forward.
From both sides. Thanks Scotty. Just what we needed. Another politically trashed up state to deal with. When it could have been handled in so many different ways.
[Explicative] TOOL Scott Walker.
He refused to take a breathalyzer test and his Blood alcohol level was measured at 0.13. I think that makes him guilty.
What the frick was this special DA doing ??????? Was he special because Walker appointed him. Slam dunk case. If he didn't have a lot of faith and trust in the officer, why did he get in his cruiser ? He could have rode in the deputies car.
How the hell did this happen? Have you guys seen the video:
oh, by the way thats his 25 yr old girlfriend who he got a govmunt job for, and a $20k raise
ps, eric k. you should embed the video. thanks for caring so much about your alma mater's state.
public employee union members conspiracy -- gee i hope his house doesn't catch on fire and he has to call the fire department, or that his house gets burglarized and he has to call the police, i wonder when he'll be moving to texas.
Really what the hell the idiots bought this? Oh yeah I was drinking and then I went driving but but its all the union out to get me and these stupid clowns bought that defense?
In Kenucky (not exactly the world's most progressive state) you get an automatic jail sentence if you refuse a breathalyzer.
alanzevil1 It's Wisconsin. If you live in Illinois like me you'd understand. They have a voting clerk who keeps winning elections for the Republicans by *finding* missing bundles of votes days after elections are over. They're cool with that too. Say it with me "Wisconsin". They let their judges choke each other. Say it with me "Wisconsin". They elected Scott Walker. "Wisconsin". I pray that the recalls will work and Wisconsin can go back to being a , laid back, beautiful, wooded, dairy state, with a radical capitol.
@fitzgeraldc71 @alanzevil1 Thanks for your good wishes. We weren't always "The Alabama of the North" (we have, however, pretty much always drank more than our fair share).