I have focused from the beginning of the scuffle between Wisconsin Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and David Prosser on Bradley’s accusation that Prosser used a “chokehold” on her. As I have detailed before, “chokehold” is a very specific term recognized by Wisconsin courts as being inherently dangerous because it puts significant pressure cutting off the flow of blood and/or oxygen, and therefore is legally justified only in very limited circumstances.
That accusation was made publicly in a press statement by Bradley in June:
“”The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold ….”
Internally at the Supreme Court, Bradley demanded that Prosser undergo anger management therapy.
Initial investigation by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that there was reason to doubt Bradley’s story, at least according to some witnesses, because there was at most incidental contact with Bradley’s neck as she rushed Prosser and he put his hands up in defense, but that there never was any chokehold used by Prosser.
Nonetheless, Bradley’s public statement that Prosser used as “chokehold” was understood, quite logically, to mean that Prosser had choked Bradley. Based on the allegation of choking, there were widespread demands for Prosser to step down, and the supposed choking became the subject of protests.
OneWisconsin Now organized a petition drive for Prosser to resign based on the use of a chokehold:
Justice David Prosser must resign.
According to Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, fellow Justice David
Prosser of put her in a chokehold during a dispute in her office earlier this
month. According to Bradley, “the facts are that I was demanding that he get out
of my office and [Prosser] put his hands around my neck in anger in a
Prosser’s temper and abusive conduct has been tolerated long enough.
Prosser charging at Tim Carpenter on the Assembly floor when the two served
together – footage One Wisconsin Now obtained and made public in March. Prosser
calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “bitch” and threatening to “destroy”
her. And now this.
Prosser has to go. Sign here to join thousands and thousands of your
fellow Wisconsinites in demanding Prosser resign.
Yesterday, the special prosecutor decided not to prosecute.
Today the investigative file was released, and confirmed that there was no chokehold used on Bradley by Prosser. As summarized by The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, both Prosser and Bradley when interviewed by investigators confirmed that Prosser never choked Bradley much less used a chokehold:
In interviews with a detective on July 8, Prosser said that during an informal argument between two groups of justices Bradley “charged” him with her fist raised and he put up his hands to defend himself.
“Did my hands touch her neck, yes, I admit that. Did I try to touch her neck, no, absolutely not, it was a total reflex,” Prosser said.
Bradley said during the argument that she wanted Prosser to leave the suite of offices that serve her and her staff and confronted him to tell him to leave because she felt he was being disrespectful to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Bradley said she was “in control” and denied that she had raised her fist, saying instead she had pointed to the door.
“ ’Buddy, get out of my office,’ ” Bradley said she told Prosser during an interview with a detective on July 12. While saying that, she said in a June 28 interview she was “standing face to face to confront (Prosser).”
She said she specifically remembered using the word “buddy” for a reason.
“Buddy puts me in control and them in the diminutive,” she told a detective.
Later, Bradley said, she could recall the contact of Prosser’s hands on her neck but no pain or pressure that affected her breathing. She did, however, say that she had become emotional after the incident.
The notes of the interview with Prosser reveal that Bradley had her fist about six inches from Prosser’s face, and the defensive contact with her neck was a “split second” with no pressure asserted.
Justice Michael Gableman confirmed in his interview that Bradley was about a foot from Prosser with a fist raised, in a punching motion which came within an inch of Prosser, and that Prosser raised his hands in a “defensive move” and gave a non-violent push in the area of where Bradley’s shoulders met her neck. Similar accounts were given by Justice Patience Roggensack. Justice Annette Ziegler did not see enough of the incident to comment on the choking allegation, but confirmed that Bradley “walk[ed] quickly” towards Prosser and “got in his face.”
Even Chief Judge Shirley Abrahamson confirmed that Bradley approached Prosser, and that she did not believe Prosser placed any pressure on Bradley’s neck, although she denied that Bradley has raised a fist to Prosser.
The notes of the interview with Bradley reveal that Bradley admitted approaching Prosser”to get close to him to make sure he knew she meant it” [to leave the office], and then used the term “choke hold.” But Bradley in her statement to police, unlike her statement to the public, stated that she “did not recall” Prosser “squeezing or applying pressure around her neck.” Bradley later described what happened as “kind of a choke hold” but again did not recall any pressure applied.
It does not appear that Bradley lied to the police, because she tempered her use of the term “choke hold” with an admission that no pressure was applied (which means that there was no “choke hold”).
But to the public, a very different image was presented, that of a “chokehold” being used and of a Supreme Court Justice choking another Justice. That was false and misleading, and forever has tarnished David Prosser.
Ironically, the account by almost all of the Justices present reveals that Justice Bradley charged at Prosser with fist raised, to get in his face, and to intimidate him, but Bradley demanded that Prosser undergo anger management therapy.
When will Justice Bradley be held accountable for the fact that she falsely and misleadingly told the public that David Prosser used a “chokehold” on her? And when will she undergo anger management therapy?
Update: Ann Althouse has links to some of the anti-Prosser protests using the choking allegation.