Remember Randy Hopper, the Republican state senator in Wisconsin who was recalled and defeated in 2011 — and later in the year was arrested and charged with drunk-driving? He and his lawyer are now presenting their defense in the trial: It’s all a political conspiracy by the unions.
The Appleton Post Crescent reports, Hopper and his attorney Dennis Melowski are presenting a case that public employee union members in Fond du Lac County, the place he formerly represented and where he was arrested for 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. (Police and firefighters were exempted.)
Interestingly, though, Melowski did still say in court 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.
So will jurors buy it?
Here is partial video of Hopper’s testimony, courtesy of the paper:
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 is 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 said. “We’re going to picket your kids’ schools, we’re going to tear apart your reputation, we’re going to have you recalled.”
Also, according to the Fond du Lac Reporter, Hopper and Melowski targeted the arresting officer, Deputy Nick Venne, for having earlier in the year signed one of the petitions to recall Hopper, and also for having not administered a full blood test to Hopper at the police station.
For his own part, Venne confirmed that he signed the petition, but said this played no role in the arrest — that Hopper smelled of alcohol, and gave other suspicious signs in a field sobriety test.
“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 also said, 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.”
Melowski also questioned 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.
“(It) would not matter who it was,” Tammy Hicken testified. “The person was driving unsafe, in my opinion.”
In addition to the backlash against Walker’s policies in 2011, Hopper simultaneously faced his own political headaches 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.