John McCain, candidate for United States president, surprised everyone by naming Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, as his running mate. Regardless of what you think about her political views, Palin had a reputation as a squeaky clean reformer—at least until “Troopergate” broke in July.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska legislators voted on July 28, 2008, to hire an independent investigator to explore whether Governor Palin, her family, or members of her administration pressured the former Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, to fire a state trooper.
The trooper in question, Michael G. Wooten, is the ex-husband of Molly McCann. McCann and Wooten are locked in a bitter child custody battle. McCann is Governor Sarah Palin’s sister.
Palin at first vigorously denied that she dismissed the public safety commissioner because she wanted Mike Wooten fired and the public safety commissioner didn’t do it. “To allege that I, or any member of my family, requested, received or released confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper, or directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous,” Palin said in a statement that was quoted by the Anchorage Daily News.
But the dismissed commissioner said that Todd Palin, Sarah Palin’s husband, showed him the findings of a private investigator the family had hired, which accused Wooten of “a variety of misdeeds including drunk driving and child abuse,” according to the New York Times.
It soon came out that members of Palin’s staff had made more than two dozen inquiries to the public safety department about Wooten, although Palin claims she played no role in them. Then an audiotaped conversation between Frank Bailey, the state director of boards and commissions, and Lt. Rodney Dial, of the public safety department, was released by Palin.
In the conversation, which took place in February, Bailey said in part, “Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, ”˜Why on earth hasn’t this, why is this guy still representing the department?’ He’s a horrible recruiting tool, you know.”
Sarah Palin on Michael Wooten
Here’s the backstory to Troopergate:
Molly McCann filed for divorce from Michael Wooten on April 11, 2005. On the same day, McCann filed for a domestic violence restraining order, and her father, Chuck Heath, called the Alaska State Troopers to complain about Wooten. The complaint initiated an administrative investigation into Wooten’s behavior. If the claims were substantiated, Wooten would be in violation of trooper conduct standards.
With the brouhaha about Palin’s recent firing of Commissioner Walt Monegan, Wooten has actually permitted the release of his personnel records. The Anchorage Daily News posted 14 documents, totaling 482 pages, including e-mails and transcripts of police investigation interviews.
Among the documents is an e-mail written by Sarah Palin. Back in 2005, the Alaska State Police started investigating Wooten, but his wife’s family was frustrated about the slow progress of the inquiry. On August 10, 2005, Palin, who at the time held no public office, sent the following e-mail to Col. Julia Grimes, who was then director of the Alaska State Troopers:
Dear Colonel Grimes,
It is my understanding that you are aware of problems within the Alaska State Trooper family that stem from one of your officers, Michael Wooten. My concern is that the public’s faith in the Troopers will continue to diminish as more residents express concerns regarding the apparent lack of action towards a Trooper whom is described by many as being “a ticking timebomb,” and a “loose cannon.”
Mike Wooten has continued to boast about incidences regarding his unethical and illegal actions that reflect so poorly on the Troopers, and appears to relish in the fact that he can “do anything because I’m a Trooper,” as he’s proclaimed to people who question his actions.
Let me share again with you just a few of the many episodes in Wooten’s recent past that have been discussed with Wooten’s supervisors after the episodes were publicly discussed by Wooten with many in our community who are left scratching their heads regarding Wooten’s poor reflection of the Trooper mission to prevent loss of life and property as a result of illegal or unsafe acts. (These are just a few, as I have received many calls and comments over the past four years about Wooten’s questionable actions and his relationship with my family. Wooten is my brother-in-law, but this information is forwarded to you objectively, and I trust it is received and considered by you objectively.)
March 26, 2005. Officer Wooten was off-duty, drinking at the Mugshot Saloon in Wasilla when he pulled out his Trooper badge and demanded the bartender (Mr. Chris Brightbill) remove a patron whom Wooten disliked. The bartender knew Wooten was off-base with his demands and subsequently testified that Wooten was out of control, was abusing his position and authority and should not be in the position of a licensed Trooper, as he believes Wooten is a “loose cannon.” (Private Investigator Leonard Hackett, interview and statement of Brightbill on 6/27/05.) Wooten eventually left the bar, was pulled over after a REDDI was called into Trooper dispatch after the caller observed Wooten driving drunk, and Wooten was pulled over. (Ironically, Wooten has been a member of your DUI Task Force and is featured in your television DUI Task Force PSAs.) The trooper who pulled Wooten over is Officer Dave Harrell. He has served as a subordinate to Wooten. He did not cite Wooten for drunk driving, but merely gave Wooten a ride to a friend’s house after responding to the REDDI. Wooten then called his wife (Molly McCann), explained that he was over the legal limit, and his wife picked him up at the friend’s house and warned Wooten that his drinking and driving would “catch up with him” as he continued to disregard warnings about his drinking and driving practice in our small town. Wooten told others about this incident as a braggart way of reminding others the he is “untouchable” as a Trooper.
Around this time, Wooten rode with his girlfriend, Mrs. Angie Johnson, home from another local bar after another night of drinking. Mrs. Johnson was pulled over by a Trooper for suspected drunk driving. Acording to Wooten’s account of the evening, he leaned over from the passenger window and demanded the responding Trooper to turn off his recorder and not cite Mrs. Johnson. She was not cited for the DUI. Wooten subsequently bragged about this incidence to others, including Steven Menard, again casting doubt in the public about the sincerity of the Trooper’s mission.
Wooten drinks excessively and has showed extremely poor judgment and disregard for others’ safety with this practice of drinking and driving, including on Jan. 19, 2005 drove home drunk; Jan. 23, 2005 drove home drunk after Super Bowl party in Anchorage; Feb. 6, 2005 in Anchorage leaving the Sullivan Arena’s WWE Pro Wrestling event, drove very drunk as he drank Crown Royal straight from bottle, brought the Crown Royal into the Sullivan in PowerAde bottle and petrified his stepson who was with Wooten in the vehicle; Feb. 12, 2005 in Wasilla; Feb. 13, 2005 drove drunk in Big Lake (leaving Call of the Wild Bar, next day so hung over he had to call in sick to Trooper Headquarters); March 13, 2005 drank at least three beers in car while driving family home from Glennallen snowmachine trip, driving over the speed limit and scaring his wife and kids who begged him to stop drinking on the drive home. Wooten’s consumption of alcohol while driving with small children in his vehicle (as witnessed by his wife and stepson, Molly and Payton McCann) is deplorable. He’s even left a friend’s home in his Trooper car, waving with beer in hand, again drinking and driving in an arrogant public statement declaring he is above the law (as witnessed by Adrian and Marilyn Lane).
Editor’s note: At this point some of the e-mail is cut off. The next paragraph appears to refer to an incident in which Wooten illegally shot a moose.
meat, so dropped the animal off at his father-in-law’s house (Chuck Heath) and never returned to even pick up the meat after Mr. Heath processed it for him so it wouldn’t go to waste. Mr. Heath delivered the meat to Wooten’s house after Wooten showed no intention of retrieving the meat. This hunt was witnessed by Wooten’s wife and Wasilla Police Officer Chris Watchus. Wooten continues to brag about the strings he says he pulled to get this transfer, where he says he’s bored, but “the free hunting trips and Cabella credit card make it worth it.” He’s recently stated he’s determined to get on with the Anchorage Police Dept., due to his boredom at Fish and Game, although APD officers whom Wooten has shared this with have let others know that he wouldn’t make a good APD officer.
Another example that Wooten likes to share with others regarding his unethical and illegal hunting techniques involves a wolf hunt where he illegally chased down the animal with his snowmachine to kill it unfairly. This was witnessed by Chuck Heath and his hunting partners.
Wooten’s total disregard for the safety of others was blatantly apparent when he shot his 11-year-old stepson, Payton, with his Taser gun. My 14-year-old daughter (Bristol Palin), was terrified as she witnessed this incidence, and pleaded with Wooten not to follow through on his intended action of “letting Payton feel what a Taser can do.” Wooten “offered” to shoot Bristol with the Taser after Payton was knocked over by the shock and Bristol continued to protest Wooten’s action, and he followed up by offering to spray them both with pepper spray so they could “feel that, too.” Wooten’s wife aggressively protested during the Taser gun incident, she cried, he calls her and Payton “f****** pussys” for protesting.
Wooten’s physical abuse of his wife is documented in their pending divorce case. He pushed her down on more than one occasion, including when she was holding their one-year-old son. Molly has been very reluctant to bring the physical abuse to light because Wooten’s temper causes her to believe he’ll be even more physically violent towards her, and others in her family whom he has threatened to “bring down,” with the revelations. Wooten’s gun, car and badge were evidently taken from him while a DVRO was in effect this spring, that turned into a No Contact rule between the parties and Wooten brazenly shows off his Trooper equipment now that he has it all back in his possession.
February 17, 2005. Wooten’s marital infidelity surfaced publicly after his Trooper-sponsored trip to Idaho “for official business” on Jan. 28, 2005 included his married girlfriend’s accompaniment. When confronted with this affair that others in the community were talking about, Wooten threatened to kill his wife’s father, Chuck Heath, if Mr. Heath followed through with his offer to help Molly by getting an attorney to help her if they were to divorce. Wooten’s words were, “I will kill him. He’ll eat a f****** lead bullet, I’ll shoot him” if our father got the attorney to help Molly. I heard this death threat, my 16-year-old son heard it (Track Palin), Molly heard it, as did their small children. Wooten spoke this with his Trooper gun on his hip in an extremely intimidating fashion, leaving no doubt he is serious about taking someone’s life who disagrees with him.
Other recent examples of Wooten’s abuse of authority include Spring, 2005. Wooten refused to pay a fine at the Mat-Su Borough Landfill when told his uncovered load would cost him a $5 fine. (Private Investigator Leonard Hackett interview and statement 6/28/05.) Wooten introduced himself as a Trooper, was agitated and trying to be intimidating (indicated by Landfill Manager Mr. Greg Goodale, and Goodale’s subordinate who had to deal with Wooten that day). Wooten eventually paid the small fine after trying to get out of it because of his Trooper status, and after the Landfill Manager had to be called in to settle the dispute caused by Wooten. This type of incident has resulted in citizens calling me, assuming there is something I can do about an abusive and intimidating Trooper who is giving the State of Alaska such a black eye.
Wooten has threatened to “bring down” anyone whom he dislikes, or anyone who would support his current wife (his third) during their divorce. When asked by Molly how he would accomplish this, Wooten states he can trump up charges against anyone and “I’ll be believed by any attorney or judge in this state because I’m a Trooper.” Specifically, on April 4, 2005, Wooten was counseled by my husband (Todd Palin) to join Molly in acting civilly and with maturity during their divorce – for the sake of the nine kids they and Wooten’s girlfriend have between them all – and who are adversely affected by these circumstances. Wooten evidently took umbrage with the advice and that day told Molly she’d better “put a leash on your sister” or he’d “bring Sarah Palin down.”
Wooten has threatened Molly that she’d better not talk about any of this, as he claims he has “bugged her phone” and, using his State investigation equipment, knows everything she’s doing and saying. Molly is justifiably extremely intimidated and scared for her and her kids’ safety.
April 11, 2005. Wooten did not show up for work, where he was to be served a DVRO. Sgt. Burke Waldron talked to Wooten’s wife and encouraged her to get the DVRO, though Molly was scared to death that Wooten could, and would, destroy her if she did. Molly was told that Judicial Services would handle the DV “in order to keep things a little more confidential.” Molly expressed concern that even those in Judicial Serves may know Wooten (as Wooten continually reminded Molly that he had the court system and personnel on his side because he was a Trooper), and Molly was told that since they do know Wooten, Molly needed to “stay safe and be protected.”
Julia, as lifelong Alaskans, my family and I and concerned community members who have witnessed your employee’s actions still want to have faith in the Alaska State Troopers. But with recent public disclosure of abuses in the Trooper organization, and our own knowledge of Wooten’s blatant disregard for the laws he is hired to enforce, our faith is waning. I feel strongly that Wooten is a loose cannon. He’s a ticking timebomb, as others describe him, and I am afraid his actions do not merely reflect poorly on the State, but his actions may cause someone terrible harm.
It is my understanding that months ago you were made aware of Wooten’s problems. Wooten’s supervisors, the Alaska State Police Standards Council, and others in positions of authority are aware of these circumstances. So the question begs: Is it acceptable for an Alaska State Trooper to use his badge and power in these aforementioned ways? Granted, Trooper Investigator Ron Wahl was sent to ask questions regarding some of these incidences, but his selective questioning and his personal responses to answers given (and his assurance that it’s Wooten’s Union that prohibits certain lines of questioning) makes one wonder about the seriousness taken here. Wooten does not tell the truth. He intimidates people and abuses his position. I don’t know what more can be said, except that considering just a few examples from those I’ve shared with you (namely, the death threat against my father who is merely trying to help his daughter escape a horribly abusive relationship, the illegal hunting, and the drunk driving!) all would lead a rational person to believe there is a problem inside the organization.
P.S. Again, Wooten happens to be my brother-in-aw, and after his infidelity and physical abuse of his wife (my sister) surfaced, Mike chose to leave his family and has continued to threaten to “bring down” anyone who supports her. I would ask that you objectively consider this information, disregarding my sister’s pending divorce from Wooten, as I have objectively separated the divorce and Wooten’s threats against me and my family with the fact that the Troopers have a loose cannon on their hands.
Can anyone say sociopath?
In my opinion, Sarah Palin’s description of Michael Wooten is the description of a sociopath. To see if there was any more evidence supporting my opinion, I looked up Alaska court records about him. Here’s what I found:
- Jan. 5, 2001—Wooten was found guilty of careless driving.
- June 6, 2006—The Alaska USA Federal Credit Union took him to small claims court and won a default judgment against for more than $2,500.
- August 27, 2007—The marriage of Angela D. Johnson and Michael G. R. Wooten was dissolved. Yes, he married and divorced again since the divorce from Molly McCann.
- April 28, 2008—Alaska USA Federal Credit Union won another judgment against him for $18,942.72.
So in addition to lying, intimidation, physical violence, abuse of power, drunk driving and threats of retaliation, Wooten has financial judgments against him and another marriage and divorce.
State Police investigation
In its story entitled Is Wooten a good trooper?, published on July 27, 2008, the Anchorage Daily News summarized the complaints lodged against him in 2005 that implied conduct unbecoming of a state trooper:
Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:
• Wooten used a Taser on his stepson.
• He illegally shot a moose.
• He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.
• He told others his father-in-law would “eat a f’ing lead bullet” if he helped his daughter get an attorney for the divorce.
After the investigation, Wooten was suspended for 10 days. Col. Julia Grimes wrote Wooten a letter to inform him of the suspension. In it, she elaborated on the results of the investigation and described previous infractions in his file. Grimes stated, “The record clearly indicates a serious and concentrated pattern of unacceptable and at times, illegal activity occurring over a lengthy period, which establishes a course of conduct totally at odds in the ethics of our profession.”
The police union, however, protested, and Wooten’s suspension was cut to five days.
Yesterday, the McClatchy news service, which supplies articles to newspapers throughout the country, published a story about Troopergate. It begins, “The first serious scandal in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s administration has roots in a family feud.”
Describing Sarah Palin’s concerns about Mike Wooten as a “family feud” trivializes what seem to me to be extremely legitimate concerns about his behavior, and legitimate concerns about superior officers who refused to fire him.
The problem, of course, is that people do not understand the nature of a sociopath, and do not understand how dangerous Wooten is. The police union gets involved, Palin’s political enemies get involved, and they characterize the whole issue as the governor abusing her power to extract revenge against a cop because of a family feud.
Regardless of what happens in the presidential election, I’m worried that if people believe that version of the story, Mike Wooten might actually make good on his threat and bring Sarah Palin down.