'I don’t recall': Former Sheriff Hutchinson can’t remember offensive behavior
MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The final investigative report into the behavior of former Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson is a grim coda to a disastrous final two years in office that began with a drunk driving conviction and ended with censure from the county board.
The 33-page document, titled "Confidential Report Do Not Disseminate," was ordered by Metro Transit Police Chief Richard Grates on January 3, the day after Hutchinson’s term of office expired and he tried to return to his previous job as a sergeant, which is permitted under civil service rules.
With his former job, and its $115,000 salary hinging on the outcome, Hutchinson participated in the Metro Transit investigation and for the first time responded to questions about his racist and offensive text messages, his regular use of homophobic slurs, and allegations he created a hostile working environment for his senior command staff.
Failure to Remember
His answers to 43 specific allegations, however, were less than forthcoming.
"I don’t remember," he told the investigator, or "I can’t recall," more than two dozen times.
Hutchinson said he does not remember telling an African American staff member "the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice." If he did, he said, "It was a bad joke."
He doesn’t recall saying someone was "retarded," or calling someone else "the fat one."
He doesn’t remember sending the text about a suburban city council member, "She dates black guys I bet." But he admits he did.
He doesn’t remember sending a text, "Burn baby, burn," with several flame and building emojis after prosecutors declined to file charges against the officers who killed Amir Locke. But he admits it was a "very complex time" in his life.
He doesn’t remember the multiple times his staff said he saw someone he didn’t like, and he said, "Should we kill him?" while putting his hand on his pistol. People make jokes, he said, "he could have said that."
And Hutchinson doesn’t remember much about the fateful night of December 8, 2021, at a law enforcement conference in Alexandria, when during a cocktail hour reception, he said another sheriff wanted to "f--k a lieutenant’s wife."
‘I’m not driving'
Later that night he left the conference and drove drunk while traveling at 125mph, rolling his county issued SUV on Interstate 94 in a single-vehicle crash. He was wearing his pistol, but not his seat belt.
Lying on the side of the road, his pants unbuckled, unbuttoned, and unzipped, he told a responding Minnesota State Trooper "I’m not driving." A false statement he would repeat a dozen times on the trooper’s body camera.
Crash scene photos show what appear to be THC vape cartridges and bags of CBD gummies strewn about his squad car.
His blood alcohol level was .134.
Hutchinson told the investigator he does not remember his drunk driving crash, "but he knows he was driving and was intoxicated."
Hutchinson pled guilty to driving while intoxicated, and the Police Officer Standards and Training Board (POST) suspended his law enforcement license for 180 days.
The last, final report
Based on the report’s findings, Metro Transit Police fired Hutchinson last month for his off-duty behavior while he was Hennepin County Sheriff.
The FOX 9 Investigators, which first reported on the former sheriff’s erratic behavior and offensive text messages, obtained the report through a public records request.
Large portions of the Metro Transit investigation are redacted because it contains personnel information, not considered public under state law.
Most of the details underpinning the report come from an earlier human resources investigation commissioned by Hennepin County Administration. Hutchinson did not participate in that investigation which led to a censure from the Hennepin County Board.
Hutchinson said the county investigation was incomplete because it didn’t include other perspectives.
"When you are making statements to make someone look bad, there is only negative outlook," he told the Metro Transit investigator.
Both Metro Transit and Hennepin County’s independent investigations found Hutchinson, who is gay, would repeatedly call members of his staff "gay" and he would often use an offensive sexual slur.
In a text, he referred to a state commissioner as a "bald mumbling f----t."
Hutchinson admitted to the investigator he uses the slur too much and argued it would be unacceptable only if he was heterosexual.
"Sometimes if you go to festivals people say things like, ‘Hey Gay,’ instead of ‘Hey, Tom’ or ‘Hey, Beth,’" Hutchinson explained to the investigator.
"This was just people bringing everything up," Hutchinson said.
After reviewing a text log, Hutchinson would reluctantly admit most of the text messages, sent from his personal phone to professional colleagues, were likely from him and he may have sent them when he was intoxicated.
Hutchinson said, "a lot of people are picking and choosing what they wanted to report," and people’s response "is exaggerated a bit."
He described it as a matter of "he said, she said," that happened "after Alexandria."
The Metro Transit investigation, conducted by Ben Reber of Wiley Reber Law, found evidence Hutchinson violated his oath of office, the law enforcement code of ethics, was dishonest when speaking with law enforcement the night of his drunk driving accident, and was disrespectful and harassing of his staff as Hennepin County Sheriff.