The allegation that Wisconsin state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser grabbed a colleague by the neck has devolved into a he said/she said. Prosser has denied choking Justice Ann Walsh Bradley prior to a ruling on the anti-union law, but Justice Bradley has confirmed the report.
“The facts are that I was demanding that he get out of my office and he put his hands around my neck in anger in a chokehold,” Bradley told the Journal Sentinel.
Sources told the Journal Sentinel two very different stories Saturday about what occurred. Some confirmed Bradley’s version. According to others, Bradley charged Prosser, who raised his hands to defend himself and made contact with her neck.
A joint investigation by Wisconsin Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first reported on the incident early Saturday, stating that Prosser “allegedly grabbed” Bradley around the neck.
Before Bradley spoke to the Journal Sentinel, Prosser issued a statement that said: “Once there’s a proper review of the matter and the facts surrounding it are made clear, the anonymous claim made to the media will be proven false. Until then I will refrain from further public comment.”
Prior to this incident, in a different context, Prosser was quoted in reference to calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “total bitch” by saying, “I probably overreacted, but I think it was entirely warranted. They [Abrahamson and Bradley] are masters at deliberately goading people into perhaps incautious statements.” It’s at least possible that’s where this story will end.
For now, we have two stories, one where Bradley, angered by a comment Prosser made about Abrahamson according to one report, charges Prosser and gets her neck caught up in Prosser’s hands; another where Prosser grabs Bradley after refusing to leave her office. Bradley’s latest statement Saturday night is this: “You can try to spin those facts and try to make it sound like I ran up to him and threw my neck into his hands, but that’s only spin. Matters of abusive behavior in the workplace aren’t resolved by competing press releases. I’m confident the appropriate authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident involving abusive behavior in the workplace.”
Some Republican leaders are getting Prosser’s back. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he doesn’t believe Bradley. His brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, hasn’t made comment other than to say he’s withholding judgment until the facts come in.
Apparently, there are years of enmity between the two Justices. We don’t yet have independent confirmation of how this manifested itself in that office earlier this month. But there’s at least the possibility of a physical assault. And it’s unclear what would happen next as a result. (My point is that if Prosser is digging in this hard now, I don’t see him resigning before a 10-year term, so talk of that is premature).