Friday saw the release of the official documents in the investigation of the alleged physical altercation at the Wisconsin Supreme Court — in which liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused conservative Justice David Prosser of grabbing her neck in a chokehold during an argument. A special prosecutor announced Thursday that no charges would be filed.
The event occurred on June 13, during an argument over the court’s decision to uphold Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation, with Prosser in the court’s 4-3 conservative majority and Bradley in the liberal minority, along with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Prosser wanted to release the court’s decision quickly, at the urging of the state legislature, but Abrahamson disagreed. Prosser and Abrahamson argued over the matter at Bradley’s office, with Prosser just outside the door, and Bradley and Abrahamson inside the office itself. Prosser has maintained that Bradley “charged” at him, and he then put up his own hands as a reflex action, briefly making contact with her neck.
Even skimming the papers, which have been posted online by the Wisconsin State Journal, they reveal a detailed portrait of a court that is deeply dysfunctional, breaking down into personal factions along partisan lines.
During the court’s initial meeting with Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs, conservative Justice Patience Roggensack told Bradley that she did not condone Prosser’s actions during the altercation, but also said “Ann you do realize you goad him.” Also, in their later separate interviews with law enforcement, Prosser and his fellow conservative Justices Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman all described Abrahamson and Bradley as having a “mother/daughter” relationship.
On the other side, Bradley has had growing concerns about her safety and Abrahamson’s. Bad relationships have been building up on the court over a long period of time, most notably in a February 2010 incident in which Prosser told Abrahamson “you are a bitch,” and also added: “There will be a war against you and it will not be a ground war.”
The key excerpt from Bradley’s interview:
Justice Bradley said at this point Justice Prosser began directing his loud voice at the Chief Justice again. Justice Prosser said something to the effect of, “Chief, I have lost confidence in your leadership.”
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 stated her intention was to get close to him to make sure he knew that she meant it. Justice Bradley said she wanted to look him in the eyes and recalled that she did not point at his face, but was pointing over his right shoulder towards the door that was behind him.
Justice Bradley said it was at this point Justice Prosser grabbed her by the neck in what she described as a “choke hold.” Justice Bradley did not recall Justice Prosser squeezing or applying pressure around her neck. Justice Bradley could not describe how many seconds Justice Prosser’s hands were around her neck, but she did recall being able to yell something to the effect of, “Get your hands off my neck.”
Justice Bradley stated Justice Roggensack pulled her back and away from Justice Prosser. Justice Bradley recalled moving towards her doorway and being pulled back towards her office door. Justice Bradley did not know if anyone had pulled Justice Prosser off of her, but did recall that Justice Gableman and Justice Prosser left her assistant’s office immediately.
Justice Bradley recalled right after or as she was pulled away by Justice Roggensack, Justice Roggensack said, “Ann, this isn’t like you, you charged at him.” Justice Bradley stated she responded by saying, “I didn’t touch him at all.”
Meanwhile, from Prosser’s interview:
Justice Prosser said as he was telling the Chief Justice that he has lost confidence in her leadership his forearms were parallel to the ground with his hands and fingers extended out. Justice Prosser said he talks with his hands generally. Justice Prosser said again that Justice Bradley had “charged at me, it’s simple as that” and she came out of her office towards him. Justice Prosser said he has heard some stories that she walked towards him and he said, “No, she charged at me”. When she got near him, he said her right fist was in his face. Justice Prosser said as he was approached by Justice Bradley he believes that his hands came up slightly as he leaned backward, “It’s as simple as that”. Justice Prosser then said, “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”.
Justice Prosser had no recollection of what he thought during this because it happened so fast. Justice Prosser said when his hands came in contact with Justice Bradley’s neck, his thought was immediately, “Oh my god, I’m touching her neck.” It was immediately after this that Justice Bradley said “don’t you ever put your hands on me.” Justice Prosser said he does not remember her saying anything about him choking her. Justice Prosser said he was stunned by what happened.
Justice Prosser said he had no recollection of his thumbs on Justice Bradley’s neck at any point. Justice Prosser could only recall his fingers touching the side of her neck, with one hand on either side of her neck. Justice Prosser said at no point did he squeeze or apply any pressure.
Justice Prosser said, “What does any self respecting man do when suddenly that man finds that his hands, or part of his hands are on a woman’s neck? Get them off the neck as soon as possible”. Justice Prosser said this was a “reflexive move”.
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