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Digging Deeper: Welfare check on DA King

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Gary King
Photo from video clip provided by Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office

EAU CLAIRE (WQOW) - Reports from the sheriff's office are detailing two incidents where law enforcement say Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King appeared to be intoxicated on the job.

It is a continuation of the story News 18 was first to bring you on-air and online on Thursday.

In documents obtained by News 18 late Thursday afternoon, a sheriff's deputy describes smelling alcohol on King before saying King possibly dozed off several times while in a courtroom Tuesday

That deputy said he was instructed to observe King because of concerns about him from earlier in the day.

Here is how the day played out, according to an incident report filed by Deputy Chad Strasburg and a report sent by Captain Dave Riewestahl to Sheriff Ron Cramer and County Administrator Kathryn Schauf.

Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office Captain Dave Riewestahl reports he was on a Zoom meeting with King at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 1. In the report he completed, Riewstahl explains he observed King "going from periods of alertness to longer periods of non-alertness." (You can watch video from the meeting above.)

At 9:57 a.m., Riewestahl said he was contacted by the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Office Administrative Division to inform him a welfare check on King was being requested by County Administrator Kathryn Schauf.

At 10:30 a.m., Riewestahl said he and Lieutenant Cory Schalinske went to King's office and there was a "do not disturb" sign hanging on the doorknob. Riewstahl said he knocked and King said he could enter.

According to Riewestahl's report, he told King he was concerned about King's attentiveness at the 7:30 a.m. meeting. The report says King was cordial and said he was working through many sensitive family matters. Riewestahl also said King explained he had trouble sleeping the night before, was up at 4:30 a.m. and had not had any coffee yet that morning.

Riewestahl said King was asked to submit to a preliminary breath test, which Riewestahl said King refused.

Riewestahl said he could not detect any signs of alcohol impairment in King's speech or speech pattern. He added he could not smell intoxicants on King because he was too far away and King had a facemask on.

In Strasburg's incident report, he says he was a bailiff in the Branch 5 courtroom on June 1.

Strasburg said at about 1:50 p.m., Judge Michael Schumacher told him there had been a staff meeting that morning "in which it appeared that District Attorney (DA) Gary King had been under the influence of an intoxicant and appeared to have fallen asleep." Strasburg said Schumacher asked him to observe King's demeanor and behavior during a hearing later that afternoon.

Strasburg said after the conversation with Judge Schumacher he also spoke with Judge Sarah Harless who also asked him to observe King's demeanor and behavior and to notify her if Strasburg felt King might be under the influence of an intoxicant.

In his report, Strasburg said several minutes later he saw King approaching. Strasburg said King was wearing a face mask and while several feet away from him he, "was able to smell an odor of intoxicating beverages about his person."

Strasburg said he went into the chambers and told Harless about his observations.

Strasburg goes on to say in the incident report, "while waiting for the 2:15 p.m. hearing to begin, and while it was underway, DA King was seated in the public seating area near the rear of the gallery. I noted that he appeared to close his eyes and possibly 'doze off' several times for several seconds."

The incident report explains Harless said she could not, and would not, proceed with the hearing unless King was willing to submit to a preliminary breath test (PBT). Strasburg said King agreed to submit to a PBT.

Strasburg said he explained the testing to King and King submitted a sample at 2:45 p.m.

"DA King abruptly ended his blowing into the machine, and I was only able to get a weak breath sample," Strasburg said in the report. "The reading climbed to 0.047 which I showed to DA King."

Strasburg said Harless spoke in the chambers for several minutes with DA King before returning to the hallway and advising that the court hearing would be adjourned for another date.

When Harless went back into the court she noted on the record the court proceeding would be adjourned for another date, Strasburg reports. He said Harless did not share a reason publicly for the decision.

At 3 p.m., Riewestahl's report says the decision was made to search King's office pursuant to Eau Claire County Policy 701.

That policy reads in part, [the purpose is] "maintaining a workplace free from the effects of alcohol and drugs, and ensuring the public that their safety and trust in us is protected. The purpose of these work rules is. (a) to establish and maintain a safer, healthier working environment; (b) to help reduce the number of and potential for injuries; (c) to aid in reducing absenteeism and tardiness; and, (d) to improve job performance.

According to Riewestahl's report, at 4 p.m., Riewestahl and Schalinske went into King's office "to determine the physical presence of alcohol on Eau Claire County property." At 4:25 p.m. the "search concluded, nothing was located."

After that search, Riewstahl said he contacted Schauf and the Assistant Corporation Counsel of the search. He said he then contacted Kasey Deiss with the Wisconsin Department of Administration, Division of Enterprise Operations, State Prosecutors Office.

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