Monday, October 13, 2008

Those a-moosing Palin relatives

One of the interesting sidelights in the Troopergate report is the Palins' frequent harping on Wooten's illegal moose-shoot as a key reason he should be fired. Other Palin allegations -- that Wooten drove drunk while on duty, that he took an open beer into a police car and drove away (attested by a third party), that he used his badge (unsuccessfully) to intimidate a bartender into expelling another customer, that he pressured another trooper not to cite his girlfriend for drunk driving, and that he tasered his 10 year-0ld stepson (confessed!) -- would reasonably support a reasonably-advanced contention -- such as the case various Palins did make in writing while Wooten was under investigation -- that Wooten was unfit to be a trooper. Indeed, the letter to Wooten informing him of his ten-day suspension (later reduced to five), which details infractions the Department regarded as proved, makes an outsider wonder why he wasn't fired. But the moose-shoot infraction sounds like the moral equivalent in the lower 48 of using your spouse's monthly pass on a commuter train.

The interview (9/14/2005) by fellow police officers of Michael Wooten, Sarah Palin's estranged brother-in-law, on allegations that he illegally shot a moose is fascinating reading. The infraction boiled down to Wooten shooting the moose when the permit belonged to his wife, Sarah's sister Molly. Apparently the permit holder has to fire the gun, though it's not exactly unheard of for the average Alaskan hubby to take his wife's moose. Indeed, according to Wooten, Sarah Palin's father Chuck Heath routinely did this on his wife's behalf and was agitating to do it for daughter Molly. Doesn't seem like much of a crime to the uninitiated (or to the officers taking the deposition).

What's interesting is Wooten's account of why he shot the moose. He claims that his father-in-law -- Sarah Palin's father Chuck Heath -- was hounding his wife relentlessly to get her moose before the permit expired. According to Wooten, the meat from a moose would last his family two and a half years -- so perhaps leaving a permit unfilled is like leaving an awful lot of groceries at the supermarket.

Of course a bitterly estranged (and allegedly abusive) ex-husband's account of his father-in-law's behavior should be taken with a grain of salt. But here's what Mike had to say about Chuck:
Umm MOLLY drew a cow moose permit for the valley area and umm we because of my work schedule and what not didn't get a chance to go out hunting...Umm and CHUCK was giving MOLLY a hard time about getting the tag filled. And umm made a statement to her that he was going to take her out and go hunting and fill the tag if I didn't and MOLLY came home all upset crying saying, "You need to take me out. We need to get a moose because my dad won't leave me alone. And he's harassed me about it and I do not want to go hunting with him under any circumstances. It's not fun. He makes it miserable and I do not want to go.....So went over to ah, we were at CHUCK and SALLY's house for dinner the night before were were gonna go hunting and CHUCK starting razzin' MOLLY about filling the permit. And basically umm and I told CHUCK, I said, "You know what CHUCK why don't you just, just leave her alone. It's her permit. It's not yours. If we don't go hunting we don't go hunting. It's not that big of an issue."

And he said ah he said, "Well if you don't take her out there and fill that permit I'll fill it for you." And I said, "Well we're gonna go hunting tomorrow." And he said, "Well there's only..." Like, it was like 3 days left in the season or something. And he's like; "Well there's only three days left. Nothing like waiting 'til the end an..." You know riding me on and on and I said, "Well we're gonna go hunting tomorrow. We're gonna go up river. We'll probably, probably see a moose."....

CHUCK told me that if I didn't take MOLLY hunting...he was going to take her tag and go fill her tag...He does it every year. He does it with SALLY's caribou tag.
Does Chuck Heath's alleged persistence bear a family resemblance to that of a certain self-described pit bull in lipstick?

As Kos diarist Kagro X points out today, the ferocity with which the Palins pressed the moose allegation on Walter Monegan and his colleagues underscores the extent to which they were willing to bend the law to their own extralegal purposes:

[MR. MONEGAN:] Pertaining to the moose, I said that in the moose kill, for example, if you wanted criminal charges brought against Wooten for actually pulling the trigger on a technicality, his wife did have a permit, and she was with him. If she was standing with him and he's the only one that just pulled the trigger, did that violate the letter of the law? Probably. Did it violate the spirit of the law? I don't think anybody's going to charge it. But if they did, if there was a criminal act there, there would be more people that would be culpable of being charged than just Wooten.


MR. MONEGAN: Well, the wife, it was her permit. She willingly allowed somebody else to use it. It also -- once the moose had been shot, it had been drug, according to Todd, by Wooten in the back -- from the back of a truck to the location where it was butchered by the governor's father. And so I pointed out that there are people also involved in this incident that theoretically could also be charged. And he said, I didn't want that. I only want Wooten charged. Well, we're not that way. If there's somebody who's guilty, we have to hold everybody accountable for their actions and their decisions.

It's possible to be amazed both by the breadth and brazenness of the Palins' effort to go outside the law to get Wooten fired (his case had been settled with full due process before Sarah was elected) and by the lightness of Wooten's punishment in the face of substantial allegations that the Department of Public Safety regarded as proved. The Palins' frustration at the "slap on the wrist" is understandable. But their insanely multiplied attempts to circumvent due process to get what may have been a bad call illegally reversed suggest a Putinesque view of elected officials' relationship to the law.

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