September 5th, 2008
12:52 PM ET
11 years ago

Trooper in Palin probe trying to put 'mistakes' behind him

Mike Wooten has suddenly found himself in the headlines.

Mike Wooten has suddenly found himself in the headlines.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) - The Alaska state trooper at the center of a probe into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power says he has "made mistakes, and I've learned from those mistakes."

But, in an exclusive interview with CNN, Mike Wooten - Palin's former brother-in-law - also denies some of the biggest allegations against him, including drinking while driving.

Watch: Drew Griffin reports on Mike Wooten

"I made mistakes. I fessed up to them. I was punished appropriately, and I'm moving on," said the 36-year-old, who went through a long, messy divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister.

In the past week, Wooten's troubles, and his history, have suddenly taken on national prominence as Palin stepped into the limelight as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

An investigation is under way into whether Palin used her office to pressure for Wooten's firing, and ultimately fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan for refusing to sack Wooten.

Palin has denied any wrongdoing, saying her decision to fire Monegan involved budgetary concerns and moving the department in a new direction. She has acknowledged that aides and members of her family repeatedly discussed Wooten with Monegan or members of his department, but said at no time did she, or anyone else acting at her request, use her office to press for Wooten's firing.

Before becoming governor, Palin wrote to state investigators in 2005, issuing a series of allegations against Wooten.

In 2006, state investigators found Wooten guilty of "a significant pattern of judgment failures," including using a Taser on this 10-year-old stepson in a training capacity and drinking beer while operating a state trooper vehicle. Wooten was suspended for 10 days as "a last chance to take
corrective action."

Speaking Thursday to CNN's Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston, Wooten gave his account of the Taser incident but denied ever drinking while driving.

He said that he was a new Taser instructor, and his stepson was asking him about the equipment. "I didn't shoot him with live, you know, actual live cartridge," Wooten said. Instead, he said, he hooked his stepson up to a training aid "with little clips. And you know the Taser was activated for less than a second, which would be less than what you would get if you touched an electric fence... It was as safe as I could possibly make it."

He said his stepson was on the living room floor surrounded by pillows, and that he "was bragging about it," and that the family laughed about it.

Asked whether it was a dumb decision, Wooten told CNN, "absolutely."

The 2006 report called the incident an example of "extremely poor judgment," and noted that he has been trained in "the risks associated with use of the weapon on a child."

Wooten insists he has been "under a microscope, and everything I did was heavily scrutinized at the time."

The father of three, who was married four times, told CNN, "I'm trying to move on, and be the best dad I can to my children. Be the best trooper that I can be. You know, I love my job. I love this state."

He added that McCain's choice of Palin as his running mate was "absolutely wonderful for the state of Alaska."

Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (53 Responses)
  1. GO SARAH!

    So, Obama followers love to call the non-followers racist, yet they continue to spew hatred and vile remarks about a second successful woman in politics. Interesting.

    September 5, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. LT for Obama

    What all of you fail to understand about this situation is that Sarah's investigation is NOT about what the trooper did or did not do, it is about her abuse of power.

    The commissioner that she tried go get to fire Wooten could not find EVIDENCE to prove the allegations, therefore, Wooten did not lose his job.

    Also, keep in mind that when the things that the Palins said he did happened, noone said or did anything about it. It was not until after her sister was divorcing Wooten that they cried foul.

    Where is your outrage for their lack of action at the time the offenses were allegedly happening? It is hyporitical to cry foul 10+ years later but not at the time it was going on.

    September 5, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. RWashington

    Reading just the first couple of comments it is understandable why McCain/Palin use negative attacks against Obama/Biden sadly in many instances people believe everything they hear. What American president has ever run under the platform of more taxes, but the republican have used those lies over and over again to frightened people caught in the grips of an already failing economy. It's amazing how this office is suppose to exemplify the best character traits in a leader but instead shows how evil and maniacal the tactics used to get in office. Sit there and believe everything McCain promises and remember what we as a nation of people have experienced in the last eight years.

    September 5, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. GO SARAH!

    Sandy, as GOVERNOR, it's not just her business, it's her responsibility.

    September 5, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. georgia independent

    Palin and McCain say "Country First" – but do they walk the talk?

    This cop shouldn't be doing what he admits he did. There's a court system and presumably an internal affairs for state police to address those charges. (I'll bet even Alaska has such things...) If the guy is guilty – the police and/or the courts should do their job and hand out the punishment – whatever is appropriate. Maybe he should lose his job – but it should be done legally.

    But his wrongs do NOT make it right for Governor Palin or her aides or her family to persecute him through the blatant cronyism.

    What will she do if she has the power of VP? Worse yet – President?

    Thanks for the article – it's about time we see some of Sarah's skeletons outside of Republican press releases...

    September 5, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Sandy

    It is irrelevant to the issue of Gov. Palin's abuse of power whether this trooper is bad or good. Even if he did the things some claim, it does not condone inappropriate interference by the Gov. or her staff in trying to have him fired. If there was a threat, they should have called the police and had him charged. If he tasered his son, they should have called the police and had him charged. You do not make 20 calls to his boss, open his confidential employment files and suggest that this is not someone you want employed as a trooper. It is on tape that Gov. Palin's aide made at least one of these calls and used confidential information. What possible motive would the aide have for pursuing this so doggedly? The implication is that Gov. Palin, perhaps not directly, but at least indirectly, put the aide into action.

    And don't think that it would not be possible to have a trooper arrested because his buddies would protect him. If the govenor called and filed a complaint with ANY basis in fact, you can bet he would have been arrested.

    September 5, 2008 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Scott L

    Sounds like Wooten supports Palin in a weird ex sister in law sort of way.

    Glad I donated to the winning team today! McCain/Palin'08!

    September 5, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  8. American Son

    urrrrrrrrrrrr.... they got to him! that's what it is. the RNC has $125 million dollars to spend. i wonder how much mcmoose paid to make the trooper-gate go away????

    September 5, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. Eric, PA

    The point that is being missed is that she used her position as Gov. to apply pressure to fire her ex-brother-in-law. Regardless if it was warrented or not, (it appears that it was warrented), the impression is that she used her position improperly. In government, even the impression of impropriety is damaging.

    As it is being reported in other stories, Gov. Palin sent e-mails to the indidivudal that she fired, indicating her aggrivation and frustration with the fact that this individual was still on the force. If she had felt that she was acting in the her capacity as Gov. as she claims, why wouldn't she send these e-mails from her government e-mail address instead of a yahoo account?

    September 5, 2008 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. Nader Supporter

    Palin is good at covering things up. Thats what Shrill politicians do?

    Her "Lipstick pitbull" attack dog roll will eventually sink the holde filled GOP ship. Mccanin can not speak for himself, can barely read a tele prompter.

    What a boring speach. No substance.......

    BTW $10,000,000 raised for Obama because of her speach filled with hate.

    September 5, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. maca

    I am Hillary's supporter and now I am so ,so happy to vote for

    McCain/Palin ticket.

    Thank you Mr. McCain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 5, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. Vegas Barbie for Obama

    Just because he "made mistakes" or had a record of any sorts, does not mean that she did not abuse her power in getting him fired.

    September 5, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. Tony

    It would also be great if CNN and others would question NOBAMA and OBIDEN about their troubles with as much conviction as they are Palin.

    How about it???????????

    September 5, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. E Johnson

    We are missing the point here. It is really not important that we hear all of the officer's deeds, good, or bad. What we do need to no is if the governor abused her power by accessing cofidential information and releasing it. Then, using that information to have "enimies" fired.

    This is truly a scary woman. Think about it!!

    September 5, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  15. john

    That is his choice. It does not change what Palin did. We all know that if the Gov's in our state did what she did, then they would be getting close to losing their job.

    September 5, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. Tom

    Check out the "Voice of the Times", a CONSERVATIVE newsletter from Alaska. Here's an excerpt from 6 WEEKS ago:

    The beginning of the divorce proceedings set off a chain of bizarre and chilling events that has continued through today. During that time it has resulted in the governor and her family trying to ruin the career of an eight year Alaska State Trooper that has served his state on the SERT Team, Motor Unit and DUI Team.

    Beginning in spring of 2005 and for the next ten months, over 25 formal complaints were filed by Palin and Heath family members against Trooper Mike Wooten. From drinking while driving his patrol car to making threats to shooting a moose without a permit.

    According to Trooper records, Sarah Palin said that in January and February of 2005, Wooten was drinking while driving. After investigating the complaint, the investigator found that Palin never actually saw what she reported.

    In another complaint, Sarah's father said that Wooten made threatening remarks. Again, the investigator found there was no probable way that it could have happened.

    In all cases except one, the charges were ruled unfounded after an internal investigation. And the one charge that was valid, Wooten immediately admitted to.

    In 2003, Wooten, his wife and a friend were moose hunting. Upon spotting a moose, Wooten instructed his wife to shoot the moose since she had the permit, she refused so Wooten did.

    After carting the moose back to town, Sarah's father actually butchered it in his garage, and Wooten shared the meat with both Sarah and Todd Palin as well as her parents. Two years later, during the divorce battle, the family filed a complaint alleging that Wooten had taken that moose illegally. At least they waited until they finished the meat to file the complaint against Wooten.

    But it didn't stop there. Threatening phone calls, private detectives that were hired to follow Wooten, notes left on windshields, Todd Palin taking pictures then submitting them to Wooten's supervisor, all designed to intimidate Wooten into backing off from demanding equal child custody rights.

    But every time they filed a spurious complaint, the Troopers would bring in an Administrative Investigator who after seeing more than two dozen of these ridiculous and time consuming complaints stated that in all his years he had never seen such a shotgun pattern against one officer.

    Meanwhile in court, Wooten prevailed at every turn as Judge Suddock quickly realized there was a concerted effort to damage Wooten. Finally the judge warned that if any of their actions caused Wooten to lose his job or pay in anyway, Molly and her family would be held liable.

    After the divorce was final in late 2005 things settled down, until last fall.

    At the request of the court, Wooten and his ex-wife were instructed to return to re-visit the custody schedule. Once the paper work started in April of 2008, the complaints and the intimidation started all over again.

    But now Wooten wasn't dealing with just Sarah Palin, he was dealing with Governor Sarah Palin...

    September 5, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  17. oh my

    yet another McCain/Bush RNC cover up? NOT THIS matter how much money they throw, Palin's dirt just keeps getting deeper and is like the hot mics said...she is political bs

    September 5, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. Jared

    What a great poster boy for the anti-Palin mudslingers. I just kinda tasered the kid, I did it the safest possible way, there were lots of pillows, and I learned from my mistakes. Great Judgement. Great cop. Great man.

    September 5, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  19. Bob A

    And the American public cares about this – why? This is a distraction that is 'acceptable' to the McCain camp because nothing will come of it. You want to be worried about something Gov. Palin is doing? Worry about her pro-life (aka pro government regulation of female anatomy) stance – worry about teaching creationism in our public schools as a legitimate, acceptable alternative to evolution (You decide which is real – Science or Religion), worry about banning books that do not meet the ideological beliefs of those in power. Worry about ISSUES people – issues that will affect YOUR life not her 'potential abuse of power' or her 'teenage daughters pregnancy'. Because while we are caught up in this soap opera – our government is destroying the ideals of this country. Vote your self interest & take back this country from the fringe!!!!

    Independents for:
    Obama/Biden 08'

    September 5, 2008 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    How do kind of taser a kid? He is crazy!!! Why would she cover this up? She is scary and she is not for the protection of children.

    September 5, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  21. Pupster

    It's hard to judge from just hearsay. Just get all the information out on the table. The American people deserve to know this person who is asking to be the 2nd most powerful person in the land.

    September 5, 2008 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  22. The Lady

    For all you ex Hillary supporters who say they are now voting for McCain because of Palin it shows your true values, absoutely zero. The only reason you would have voted for Obama is if he had selected Hillary or a woman. I would like to see a woman President or Vice President just like you, they need to earn it the hard way just like the fellas do, I am not going to hand some woman something just because she is a woman. If Palin was a man with no experience you would be crying foul play.

    September 5, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Tony @ 3:50 "It would also be great if CNN and others would question NOBAMA and OBIDEN about their troubles with as much conviction as they are Palin."

    Tony – Where've you been for the last 19 months? Sens. Biden & Obama have given numerous interviews, have undergone intense scrutiny, and held numerous townhall meetings with the American people. Sen. Obama has been under this microscope for the last 19 months and Sen. Biden for the last 30+ years! Heck, people looking for dirt on Sen. Obama went as far back to his first grade teacher to get information! Moreover, Sen. Obama had more than 18 million people validate him for his position!!!

    Sorry, if Palin wants to play in the big leagues, she's going to be questioned, scrutinized, and criticized before she gets anywhere near the WH! And, if she can't handle it, then she should have done the right thing and declined McCain's sexist offer to her.

    September 5, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. clarence

    Who Cares About HIS Mistakes? What is important is the fact that McCain has terrible judgement picking Sarah Palin without doing a background search on her short political history in Alaska. He never would have picked her if he knew about this investigation, and her many many petty firings of government workers for personal reasons.

    September 5, 2008 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  25. The CA Sasquatch

    I worked as a Probation Officer in CA. You are held to a higher standard then the public. Tasers are dangerous and not somethng you should fool with even if it is not fully "loaded". If there is a spec of evidence that he did that (yes he admitted to it) or if a spec of evidence he made any sort of threat to a civilian then he should be fired instantly and perhaps jailed or given probation. Nothing wrong with the GOV wanting him gone and really nothing wrong withthe GOV replacing the boss. If Obama is elected he has the right to replace Condy Rice. Just as Palin had the right to replce Monegan (sp)

    September 5, 2008 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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