In his latest story on the so-called "Troopergate" scandal (background here), the Washington Post's James V. Grimaldi reports a false statement made by state trooper Mike Wooten, Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law, as if it were a fact. Grimaldi writes that Wooten "contradicted Palin's statement that she overheard him in 2005 threaten her father during an argument with Palin's younger sister, Molly McCann, Wooten's wife at the time. Wooten noted that an internal investigation failed to sustain the death-threat allegation."
But according to the Anchorage Daily News, the internal investigation did sustain the death-threat allegation:
Troopers eventually investigated 13 issues and found four in which Wooten violated policy or broke the law or both:
â€¢ Wooten used a Taser on his [10 year-old] stepson.
â€¢ He illegally shot a moose.
â€¢ He drank beer in his patrol car on one occasion.
â€¢ 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.
Wooten released to the ADN all 482 pages of documents compiled from this investigation. Here is the section of the state troopers' "memorandum of findings" in which the death threat charge is found to be "sustained":
Molly McCann, Sarah Palin and Track Palin allege that on February 17, 2005, Investigator Wooten made a comment to Molly McCann that he would shoot her father if he hired a Iawyer for her. McCann advised that Investigator Wooten made this comment to her, and that Sarah and Track Palin who were listening over an open telephone line overheard it. Investigator Wooten was questioned about the comment and denied ever making the statement. Although McCann, Sarah Palin and Track Palin all recalled hearing the statement, a statement 'or implied threat to a non-present third party is not a crime. Although McCann and Sarah Palin felt that their father's life was in danger by the statement, neither mentioned the threat to their father for several weeks. Nevertheless, a statement of this sort by a trooper reflects badly on AST.
OPM 101.070 (A) Unbecoming Conduct Sustained
OPM 101,070 (B) Personal Conduct Sustained
OPM 101.Q70 (C) Conformance to Laws Not Sustained
The state troopers interviewed Palin, her son, and her sister separately and came to the conclusion that the death threat charge was "sustained". The Anchorage Daily News's Lisa Demer reported:
Wooten told troopers he never said anything like that about his father-in-law.
The investigation concluded he did. It wasn't a crime, because he didn't threaten [Gov. Palin's father] Heath directly. But it did violate trooper policy, the investigation found.
So why did the Washington Post's Grimaldi report that "Wooten noted that an internal investigation failed to sustain the death-threat allegation"? Shouldn't Grimaldi - a Pulitzer winning reporter - independently evaluate the accuracy of Wooten's statements?
This isn't the first time that Grimaldi has reported untrue statements under the cover of quoting Palin's opponents. On August 30, he and and a co-author wrote that Wooten's union boss, John Cyr, "said Wooten has 'a spotless record' and no allegations in his file other than those filed by the governor's family." But according to the Anchorage Daily News, "Beyond the investigation sparked by the family, trooper commanders saw cause to discipline or give written instructions to correct Wooten seven times since he joined the force."