The Republican candidate running to unseat a Democratic Wisconsin state Senator in next week’s recall election said Thursday that a child abuse investigation against him was “just another false accusation.”
But discerning voters might think otherwise, considering his history.
Though he insists charges against him are the invention of Democratic operatives in the state, police reports detailing his rocky marriage show otherwise.
VanderLeest was not the GOP’s first choice to run against Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen, who is facing recall for temporarily fleeing the state to prevent Republicans abolishing collective bargaining rights for public workers. The party found themselves stuck with VanderLeest after Republican state Rep. John Nygren failed to get the required number of signatures on his nomination papers.
The child abuse allegations are just the latest legal troubles for VanderLeest, who has been arrested at least four earlier times.
In 2006, he was arrested for domestic abuse after his then-wife Rachel Gerritsen told officers that he tried to prevent her from calling the police.
“He would grab me forcefully by my shoulders and whip me across the floor, causing me to fall on the floor,” she wrote in the complaint. “He grabbed me and threw me away from the phone to prevent me from calling the police.”
Two months months later, VanderLeest was charged with felony intimidation of a witness when his wife again accused him of abuse.
This time, Gerritsen told officers that her husband had pulled out her hair and threatened to kill her. The responding officer reported seeing a clump of hair at the scene.
“I told David that I was going to be testifying against him for a domestic abuse incident this past July. David got very upset and told me not to testify against him,” the police report said. “David pulled my hair out and threatened to kill me if I testified against him.”
Gerritsen later submitted an affidavit that she had been too drunk to remember details of the abuse and VanderLeest pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct.
In a 2009 incident, Gerritsen told officers that her ex-husband had hit her in the head and the hip.
“I don’t even want to talk to you guys,” she told one of the officers who responded to the call. “You never do anything.”
“This is what you get, when you come home, only you bring this anger out in me,” VanderLeet allegedly had told his former wife. She added that he had also called her “slut, cunt, bitch.”
One of the officers also reported observing a large bump on Gerritsen’s head where she said she had been hit.
Several months later, Gerritsen again submitted an affidavit to the court saying she could not remember the incident. She later claimed that VanderLeest had forced her to sign it so that she could see her son.
Green Bay Police Lt. Jim Runge told The Green Bay Press Gazette that while he had no comment on the case, it was not unusual for domestic abuse victims to recant their stories and that police would not take statements from intoxicated individuals.
VanderLeest has provided PolitiScoop with the affidavits and other documents that he claims prove his innocence.
Besides the allegations of domestic abuse, witness intimidation and bail jumping, the candidate also owes $24,584 in back property taxes and $28,607 on a 2006 judgement.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party has created an aggressive ad campaign, focusing on VanderLeest’s legal history.
The recall election is scheduled for July 19.
Watch this video from Wisconsin Public Radio, broadcast July 14, 2011.
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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