Lots of official documents are available which include key information. Here are some crucial facts that jump off the page when those documents are examined. Most of this information is not being widely reported elsewhere, as far as I can tell.
A) TASING THE KID WAS DUMB, BUT HARDLY A VICIOUS ASSAULT
Mike Wooten's stepson Payton was 11 at the time (some reports say 10). He volunteered to be Tased, out of curiosity. The following statements are from police interviews of all four people who were in the house during the incident (pdf):
Payton advised that a year or two ago Mike Wooten had tased him … he [Payton] was in the living room when Mike was showing him and his cousin, Bristol his equipment [Bristol is Sarah Palin's daughter; Bristol was 14 at the time]. He [Payton] stated that Mike asked him if he wanted to try it (the Taser) and he agreed. … Payton stated that he wanted to be tased to show that he's not a mommy's boy in front of Bristol. Following being tased he went upstairs to tell his mother that he was fine.
(Emphasis added.) Besides Wooten and Payton, Bristol is the only eyewitness. Upstairs listening was Molly. Molly is the mother of Payton, and the sister of Sarah Palin, and (at the time) the wife of Wooten. This is what Bristol said:
Molly was bathing the two kids up stairs. Payton and her [Bristol] were looking at items on Mike's belt. When they asked about the Taser Mike advised that it shocks and asked them if they wanted to try it … Payton agreed to try the taser. … Bristol stated that Payton volunteered to be tased, and that Mike had offered to see if she wanted to try also. Bristol refused stating that she was scared.
Bristol was asked why she waited so long and brought the incident up after two years. She then stated "because of the divorce and stuff."
This is what Wooten said:
Wooten stated he had just returned home from Taser instructor school, and that Payton was fascinated with his equipment. Wooten … showed Payton the Taser and what it does. … Payton was riding him about being tased and wanted to try it.
Wooten stated that he used a training cartridge and taped the probes to Payton. He then placed him on his knees and gave him a quick shock and believed it lasted a second at the most. Wooten stated that Payton is an adrenaline junky, and that he was bragging about it to his buddies when they would come over to his house. Wooten advised that he didn't think it hurt Payton and that Payton wanted to do it again.
Wooten stated that Payton is extremely interested in law enforcement. He also advised that he was a father teaching his son. Wooten advised that Molly was up stairs during the Taser incident and knew what he was doing. Wooten said Molly didn't have a problem with it, however didn't want him to do it again.
This is what Molly said:
she was up stairs giving a bath to the kids … Mike was going to show Payton what it feels like and she told Mike that he better not … Mile then tased Payton … Payton was shook up … Bristol was really upset … Mike thought that she was totally overreacting to the event … Payton didn't cry but was upset.
It should be noted that Sarah Palin wrote (pdf) that Molly "aggressively protested during the Taser gun incident." But by all accounts, Molly never interrupted what she was doing (giving kids a bath) to go downstairs. By Molly's own account, she simply "told Mike that he better not." Apparently yelling this down the stairs, while continuing to give kids a bath. This is what Sarah called "aggressively protested."
Some information about what happens during a Taser demo (because that's essentially what it was):
The probes are attached by thin wires to the Taser cartridge. In the field, an officer fires the probes into a suspect's skin or clothing and the suspect receives a jolt of electricity for five seconds, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser International, which makes the devices. They are only incapacitated during that time. In demos, the probes might be taped to a person so that they don't accidentally strike an eye or injure the volunteer, he said. If the Taser is fired for just a second, it would feel like your funny bone was hit but the quick jolt wouldn't knock you over, Tuttle said.
The above police interviews took place in 6/05. The Taser incident apparently took place in 2003. Molly and Wooten became separated in 1/05. Molly filed for divorce in 4/05. It should be noted that no one made a fuss about the Taser incident until the marriage started falling apart. Just like Bristol said.
I think there's no question that Wooten did an idiotic thing (maybe almost as idiotic as something McCain did: pick Palin). But I think it's a distortion to frame this as an assault or an act of child abuse. Of course that's how the usual suspects are framing it.
B) THE ALLEGED DEATH THREAT SOUNDS VERY FISHY
Aside from the Tasing, the other major accusation against Wooten is that he threatened to kill his father-in-law, in 2/05. Who heard that alleged threat? Molly, Sarah Palin, and Sarah's son Track. The latter two were not there in person; they were allegedly listening, over the phone, to a conversation that took place between Molly and Wooten. Wooten says they're lying.
Here's an odd thing about that anecdote: the sisters kept it to themselves for about a month, before telling dad. Even though Sarah said this (pdf):
My fear was that what I didn't want to see was him [Wooten] not only harming MOLLY or the kids but getting back in his rig and running over to my dads house and actually shooting him
Also from a police interview of Sarah Palin (pdf):
Palin was also questioned as to why it took her two weeks to advise her father of Wooten's threat. Palin then stated that it was because Wooten had no reason to shoot her father.
Huh? She claims that she heard Wooten issue a death threat, and she was worried about Wooten "running over to my dads house and actually shooting him." But then she says "Wooten had no reason to shoot her father," and that's why she didn't bother calling 911, or even telling dad. For a month (not two weeks). I think she's having a hard time keeping her story straight. And the story was not reported to the police until April, on the same day that Molly filed her divorce.
C) KILLING THE MOOSE WAS ALSO NO BIG DEAL
This also happened in 2003, in the Fall. Wooten went hunting with Molly and a friend. They had a license made out in Molly's name. But when it came time to shoot the moose, Molly demurred. According to Wooten, Molly said "I don't want to shoot it you shoot it." So Wooten did. This is illegal, because the license is nontransferable, even though it was in his wife's name. Molly was supposed to shoot the moose. Obviously not a big deal, although Wooten did break the law.
This reminds me of someone else who went hunting without "proper hunting credentials:" a man who shot his friend in the face.
The moose incident happened in 2003, but no one seemed to complain or take notice, until the marriage fell apart in 2005. It was only then that the Palin family raised complaints about this incident. Just like with the Taser story.
D) YES, WOOTEN WAS FOUND GUILTY OF HAVING AN OPEN BEER IN HIS PATROL CAR
It seems that Wooten likes to drink. But it should be noted that as far as I can tell, he's never been arrested for drunk driving. That puts him ahead of both Bush and Cheney.
E) THE PALIN FAMILY MADE A BUNCH OF OTHER ACCUSATIONS THAT WERE FOUND TO BE UNSUBSTANTIATED
A thorough police investigation was done (about 15 people were interviewed), and Wooten was finally punished with a five-day suspension in 2006, based on the four items I just described. A bunch of other accusations made by the Palin family were found to be unsubstantiated.
You'll see reports claiming that Wooten has other bad stuff in his file. That's true, but it's minor. Stuff like failing to use turn signals (pdf).
F) PALIN USED TO THINK THAT WOOTEN WALKED ON WATER
In 2000, Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla. The following is a letter she wrote, on her official stationery (pdf):
It is my pleasure to provide character reference examples for Mr. Mike Wooten. Since I have become acquainted with Mike I continue to be impressed with his integrity, work ethic, community spirit and trustworthiness.
Mike has assisted the City of Wasilla with community events … Mike is a strong supporter of the youth in our community … Mike gained respect for his patience and dedication to the young men in his care [coaching football, age 7-9] …
… I have witnessed Mike's gift of calm and kindness towards many young kids … I have never seen him raise his voice, nor lose patience, nor become aggitated [sic] in the presence of any child. Instead, Mike consistently remains a fine role model for my own children, and the other young people in Wasilla. I wish America had more people with the grace and sincerity that mirrors the character of Mike Wooten … we would have a much kinder, calmer, trustworthy nation as a result.
I beleive [sic] the United States Air Force has been fortunate to have the services of Mike these past 10 years. His work ethic, his American patriotism, his obvious dedication to traditional values, and his strong faith in God and truth is witnessed in Mike's everyday living.
It is an honor to know Mike and I am confident he will continue to grow in character and internal strength as he moves through life. I do not hesitate in praising this man …
At the very, very least, Sarah Palin has appallingly poor judgment. Contrast the words above to what she called Wooten in 2005 (pdf): a "loose cannon" and a "ticking timebomb." So why did Palin change her views so dramatically? It's obvious: her sister's marriage fell apart.
G) THE DIVORCE JUDGE UNDERSTOOD THAT THE PALINS WERE TRYING TO RUIN WOOTEN
The judge said this:
It appears for the world that Ms. McCann and her family have decided to take off for the guy's livelihood -- that the bitterness of whatever who did what to whom has overridden good judgment … Aesop told us not to slay the goose who lays the golden egg. For whatever reason people are trying to slay the goose here and it tends to diminish his earning capacity.
H) BOYS WILL BE BOYS
I'm thinking of a person who acts out a lot. Breaks lots of rules. Gets into trouble. Who am I thinking of? John Mccain, in the Naval Academy.
Yes, that's what Wooten is like, too. He's had problems. He's been married and divorced four times. But he was also in the Air Force for 10 years, and he has served on the state SERT (SWAT) team. And some people have been very impressed with him, like Sarah Palin in 2000.
I) IT'S NOT THE CRIME, IT'S THE COVERUP
The usual suspects are saying that Wooten deserved to be fired, so Palin did the right thing. Trouble is, if Wooten deserved to be fired, Palin should have said that openly and publicly. But she couldn't, because the case was closed, and Wooten had already been punished for the accusations that had been substantiated, and he was doing his job properly. So instead, Palin conducted a covert crusade to get him fired, and then denied doing so. Get your popcorn, because new evidence is popping up all the time. Monegan says he has emails that he's giving to the investigators. Palin might have a shorter half-life than Harriett Miers.
J) SOME KEY DATES
1/1/00. Palin writes "It is my pleasure to provide character reference examples for Mr. Mike Wooten" (pdf).
3/01. Wooten becomes a state trooper.
- Molly and Mike get married.
Fall 03. The moose incident. The Taser incident is also sometime in 2003.
1/05. Molly and Wooten separate.
2/17/05. Wooten makes that alleged death threat.
4/11/05. Molly files for divorce. On the same day she decides it's finally time to report the alleged death threat to the police.
5/05 and 6/05. Police conduct lots of interviews, in connection with accusations made against Wooten by the Palins.
8/10/05. Sarah Palin emails Col. Grimes, head of the AST (Alaska State Troopers) making many allegations against Wooten (pdf). There is little or nothing that Sarah witnessed herself. It's mostly double or triple hearsay via her sister and others. Most of those allegations are later found to be unsubstantiated.
10/18/05. Palin announces she's running for governor.
10/27/05. Divorce trial takes place.
10/29/05. Memo of findings clears Wooten of 10 out of 13 charges.
1/31/06. Divorce is final.
2/1/06. Grimes substantiates a fourth allegation (beer in the car).
3/1/06. Wooten is suspended.
8/22/06. Palin wins primary.
9/5/06. Wooten's suspension reduced to five days (from 10) after union files a grievance.
11/7/06. Palin wins election.
12/06. Palin appoints Monegan to a cabinet position.
- Monegan is pressured to fire Wooten. Details on front page of today's WP.
7/08. Palin fires Monegan.
7/17/08. Palin issues denial (pdf):
To allege that I, or any member of my family … directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous … Former Commissioner Monegan was not released due to any actions or inaction related to personnel issues in his department
A Popular Mechanics lab test showing a volunteer being Tased is here (video). I don't think anyone will find the video terribly disturbing. I think Payton experienced a shock of a shorter duration.
Update: Josh Marshall at TPM has just posted an outstanding summary of the whole story. If you read just one article about Troopergate, that should be the one.