Wisconsin Justice Ann Walsh Bradley publicly accused Justice David Prosser of using a “chokehold” on her during an incident on June 13, 2011.
As discussed on Thursday, the investigative file shows that the accusation was false and misleading. Read my post, Turns out WI Justice Ann Walsh Bradley was the one with the anger management problem, for the details.
Prosser never choked Bradley, much less used a chokehold, even though Bradley told the public otherwise and sat by as Prosser was widely vilified for having choked Bradley.
There is another aspect of this case, however, which is just as troubling as the false accusation of a chokehold. Bradley has cynically use of the very real problem of workplace safety as both a sword with which to attack Prosser and a shield to deflect from her own aggressive conduct which precipitated the incident.
Whatever was the past history of acrimony on the Court, there was only one person on the Wisconsin Supreme Court who initiated a physical confrontation with another Justice, and that person was Bradley.
I quote extensively from the investigative file below, and include even longer excerpts in a companion post. (Note: Emphasis in the quoted sections is mine.) It is important that the record be quoted, because Bradley has been so vociferous and public in her claim that she is the victim of workplace violence while the facts show otherwise.
There are some differences in observation and memory among the Justices present, which is not suprising in an event that lasted seconds. But there also is a surprising commonality to their observations.
The investigative file shows that multiple Justices informed investigators that Prosser was standing just outside Bradley’s office in the room where Bradley’s secretary sat, when Prosser made a comment to Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson that he did not have confidence in her leadership.
While Bradley says Prosser used a loud voice, others say he did not. But no one, including Bradley, claims that Prosser moved towards either Abrahamson or Bradley, or undertook any other physically hostile actions.
At that point, after Prosser’s comment to Abrahamson, Bradley left her chair behind her desk, moved quickly towards Prosser (some describe it as walking quickly, some as charging):
From Ziegler Interview: “Justice Ziegler stated this statement prompted Justice Bradley to stand up from her desk and “walk quickly” towards Justice Prosser. Justice Ziegler said Justice Bradley walked past her and walked in front of Justice Prosser and “got in David’s face.”"
From Gableman Interview: “Justice Gableman said it was this comment that he believes prompted Justice Bradley to rush over to Justice Prosser. Justice Gableman said he had not seen Justice Bradley in her office from where he was standing, until she was “rushing towards Justice Prosser” out of her office.”
Bradley told investigators that she approached Prosser in an aggressive manner deliberately:
From Bradley Interview: “Justice Bradley said she began to walk over towards where Justice Prosser was standing, which was just outside of her office doorway. As she got closer to him Justice Bradley told Justice Prosser “Buddy don’t raise your voice again. I’m no longer willing to put up with this.”
Justice Bradley described how she was now standing close to Justice Prosser and was “face to face to confront him.” Justice Bradley stated she was pointing with her left hand towards the door that was behind him and said, “You get out of my office. ””
…. Justice Bradley said, “Buddy puts me in control and them in the diminutive.” Justice Bradley again said she knew exactly what she was doing and saying to Justice Prosser on the evening of June 13, and added, “I intended to do it just the way I did it.” Justice Bradley repeated several different times during our conversation with her that she was in control on June 13, 2011 and she knew exactly what she was doing the whole time.
According to two Justices present (Roggensack and Ganbleman) Bradley raised her fist in Prosser’s face such that one Justice pulled her away for fear Bradley would strike Prosser in the face:
From Roggensack interview: “Justice Roggensack said if she had not got in between the two of them, she believes Justice Bradley would have “smacked him in the face with her fist .””
From Gableman interview: “Justice Gableman said Justice Bradley’s fist was going towards and away from Justice Prosser’s face in almost a punching motion. Justice Gableman said he wanted to make clear that Justice Bradley’s fist was not going up and down, but rather in and out towards and away from Justice Prosser during this incident. Justice Gableman said Justice Bradley’s fist was in Justice Prosser’s face and came within about an inch every time she would extend her fist while speaking to Justice Prosser.”
Bradley told investigators that she did not have a closed fist, but was pointing with her index finger, with the other fingers clenched:
From Bradley Interview: “Justice Bradley said as she was walking towards Justice Prosser, her left hand was up with her index finger pointing towards the outer door of her chambers and he other three fingers were curled up….”
So by multiple accounts, Bradley either had a fully or almost fully clenched raised fist as she approached Prosser.
Bradley’s approach was so aggressive that Justice Roggensack jumped in to pull Bradley away from Prosser, and scolded Bradley that such conduct was not like her. Bradley did not deny this had happened:
From Bradley Interview: “Justice Bradley recalled right after or as she was pulled away by Justice Roggensack, Justice Roggensack said, “Anne, this isn’t like you, you charged at him.” Justice Bradley stated she responded by saying, “I didn’t touch him at all.”"
In this incident, which lasted just a few seconds, Prosser raised his hands to push Bradley away. Everyone, from Bradley to Prosser to every other Justice present who was able to observe, told investigators that Prosser raised his hands only in response to Bradley’s approach.
Everyone, including Bradley, also told investigators that Prosser’s hands came in contact with Bradley’s neck area only momentarily, with no pressure being applied.
From Bradley Interview: “Justice Bradley did not recall Justice Prosser squeezing or applying pressure around her neck.”
From Roggensack Interview: “Justice Roggensack said Justice Bradley mentioned [at a meeting two days later] how Justice Prosser had her in a chokehold, and Justice Roggensack responded by saying he did not have her in a chokehold at any point. Justice Bradley responded to her by saying “that’s because you stopped him.” Justice Roggensack told Justice Bradley that she did not stop him from anything, and added, “I stopped you from hitting him.”"
This is consistent with Prosser’s statement that he reacted to Bradley’s approach reflexively, sought to push her away from him, and pulled back when he realized his hands had touched her neck, not just her shoulders.
Yet Bradley immediately and repeatedly claimed a chokehold was used on her.
An incident in which Bradley charged or quickly moved at Prosser, did so deliberately to intimidate him and get in his face, in which Bradley’s fully or almost fully raised fist was near Prosser’s face, was turned by Bradley into a choking incident even though she admitted to investigators and her colleagues that there was no choking.
From the moment of the incident, Bradley began a campaign to paint the issue as not about her own aggressive conduct, but workplace safety and Prosser’s alleged past history of verbal conflict with other Justices.
Soon after the incident Bradley called the Capitol Police to demand a meeting about workplace safety, and then gave a planned presentation to the other Justices at a conference two days later using the following script (the full script is printed in the companion post):
I have brought this to the attention to all of you as my colleagues to see if we can deal with this internally.
In some ways this is simple. It is about workplace safety.
I have the right to go to my workplace without fear of verbal abuse or physical abuse.
Dave, at times you are a wonderful person. But there is another side. I have seen Dave engage in verbal abuse, threats and two days ago in anger he put his hands around my neck in a choke hold.
I have the right as a state employee to enter my workplace without any fear of verbal or physical abuse
Bradley’s script also emphasized violence against women:
Monday night [my husband] said to me, if one of our daughters called and said a co-worker had just in anger put his hands around her neck in a choke hold) that I would be on her to do everything possible that it did not happen again … And he is right.
He said, I cannot care for myself any less in response than I would care for my daughters.
Bradley has continued to use the theme of workplace safety even after the charges were dropped against Prosser, in this statement she released:
This is and remains an issue of workplace safety.
My focus from the outset has not been one of criminal prosecution, but rather addressing workplace safety….
I well understand the difficulty of gaining any criminal conviction. The prosecution’s burden of proof is very heavy, as it should be….
With the potential for prosecution now eliminated, I will renew my efforts to seek the cooperation of my colleagues on the court to resolve this progressive workplace safety issue. With the continued cooperation of others both on court staff and outside the court, I remain committed to the goal that we can achieve the safe workplace that all employees—private and public—are entitled to have under the law.
Yet absent from any of Bradley’s statements and demands for workplace safety is an acknowledgement that she precipitated this confrontation by aggressively moving at Prosser in a manner which a reasonable person could view as threatening, or at least react to by pushing back.
Bradley’s actions forced Prosser, in a fraction of a second, either to push her away or risk what Justice Roggensack feared for Prosser, a punch in the face. It is not surprising that in these circumstances no charges were brought against Prosser.
The issue was not, as Bradley suggested in her statement, that the prosecution would have had a “very heavy burden of proof.” By suggesting that Prosser committed a crime but it could not be proven, Bradley once again demonstrated an inability to consider the significance of her own actions.
Bradley and Bradley alone was the person who turned an argument in which she was not even involved into a face-to-face physical confrontation.
It was bad enough that Bradley made a false public accusation that a chokehold was used on her. That accusation has forever damaged David Prosser.
Bradley compounded that error by invoking workplace safety as a rhetorical sword and shield to direct attention away from her own aggressive conduct. By falsely crying workplace safety, Bradley damaged the fight against real workplace violence.