Deafness a factor in 1995 Walz arrest
Candidate's campaign manager speaks about drunken driving charges
By Matthew Stolle
Tim Walz, the DFL congressional candidate running against GOP Rep. Gil Gutknecht, was jailed in Dawes County, Neb., in 1995 on suspicion of speeding and driving while under the influence of alcohol, according to court documents from that county.
The charge of driving under the influence eventually was dropped, and Walz pleaded guilty to an amended complaint of reckless driving.
Walz's campaign said the arrest by a state trooper was the result of a misunderstanding caused by Walz's deafness; his hearing since has been surgically corrected.
The incident was first reported Wednesday by the political blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed written by Michael Brodkorb, a Republican political researcher from Eagan.
Walz was living in Alliance, Neb., at the time of the incident, which happened Sept. 23, 1995. The ticket filed by the Nebraska State Patrol states that a trooper tracked Walz, then 31, on radar driving 96 mph in a 55 mph zone.
Walz taught and coached in Nebraska before moving in 1996 to Mankato, where he currently lives and is a high school teacher.
An affidavit of probable cause filed by the trooper states that a strong odor of alcohol was detected on Walz's breath and person after he was pulled over. It says Walz was given a field sobriety test and a preliminary breath test, both of which he failed.
Walz pleaded not guilty to the charges and sought to suppress the blood alcohol test in court, according to court papers, before agreeing to plead guilty to reckless driving. He paid a $200 fine.
Walz's campaign manager Kerry Greeley didn't dispute that Walz was speeding when he was pulled over that night, but she said Walz was not drunk. She attributed the misunderstanding to Walz's deafness, a condition resulting from his years of serving as an artillerist in the Army National Guard.
"He couldn't understand what the officer was saying to him," Greeley said.
She said deaf people also can have balance issues. The judge eventually threw out the DUI charges against Walz and chastised the officer for not realizing that Walz was deaf, Greeley said.