Pressure mounts on sheriff to resign over DUI amid new revelations

Despite an attempt to quickly put his DUI conviction in the rearview mirror, Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson faces increasing pressure to resign amid new questions about his conduct in the Dec. 8 rollover that totaled his squad car. The revelations unveiled in a search warrant just released to the public were summarized in the Star Tribune:

A Douglas County sheriff’s deputy told a state trooper that Hutchinson was the only person at the crash scene shortly after 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 8 along Interstate 94, and he “denied being the driver of the vehicle to both witnesses at the scene and deputies upon their arrival. No other individuals were located either inside the vehicle or immediate area.”

One of the deputies at the scene informed the trooper that “Hutchinson told him on several occasions that he was not driving, and at one point, said that he called a cab and that the cab driver was driving the vehicle.”

The search warrant also states authorities spotted an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle overturned by Hutchinson. Hennepin County’s top law enforcement officer was charged with four misdemeanor counts of drunken driving, but pleaded guilty to one after being found to have a blood alcohol content of almost twice the legal limit. He was sentenced to two years probation. Curiously, the alleged bottle of bourbon was not listed on the police inventory, according to Hutchinson’s attorney.

The search warrant was filed in order to receive court permission for the State Patrol to check the driver’s side airbag and the steering wheel for DNA, and to look for open containers of alcohol or “other evidence of alcohol consumption.” The search also led to the patrol seizing Hutchinson’s smartphone, the filing noted.

Hennepin County Commissioner Irene Fernando was first to call on Hutchinson to resign his post, soon followed by Commissioner Jeff Lunde. In a letter to the sheriff, Fernando referred to public statements made in a media blitz following his DUI accident.

I was appalled at your response during an interview on December 26, 2021 when a WCCO reporter asked, “had you driven drunk before?” Alarmingly, you state that “everyone has at some point.” This harmfully normalizes dangerous behavior, and it disrespects the approximately 120 Minnesota families who lost a loved one to alcohol-related crashes in 2021.

…Due to your egregious actions combined with your unjustifiable comments since the crash, the only way to maintain the dignity of the Sheriff’s office and to show respect for the laws you are sworn to uphold is to resign immediately.

For now, Hutchinson remains on the job. The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners does not have the authority to take disciplinary action against Hutchinson as an elected official.

But Hutchinson suddenly faces another challenger for the office with Suwana Kirkland, head of the Minnesota chapter of the Black Police Association, just announcing her candidacy for sheriff of Minnesota’s biggest county.

(Photo: Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office)