A former Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman has been convicted of first-offense drunken driving, even though it was his third conviction for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.
Graeme Zielinski, of Milwaukee, pleaded no contest to a first-offense OWI n Jefferson County Circuit Court. He was originally charged with third-offense OWI after his arrest in June because of previous drunken driving convictions in Virginia in 1999 and in 1992 in Burlington, Wis., just after his 18th birthday.
However, loopholes in Wisconsin's OWI law allowed Zielinski to be punished only as a first offender despite his prior convictions, the Daily Jefferson County Union reported Friday.
Since records of the Virginia case were destroyed after 10 years, prosecutors were unable to prove he knowingly and intelligently waived his right to an attorney in that case. Thus, under Wisconsin law, it cannot be counted as a prior conviction. And his first Wisconsin conviction was deemed too old to count either.
"It's a very weird statute. It's a loophole, basically, is what I'd like to call it," Assistant District Attorney Monica Hall said. "I think that it's an acknowledgement of the fact that the people in this state love their booze and they don't mind so much if you drink and drive."
Zielinski lost his job as Democratic Party spokesman in March after comparing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. On Thursday, he issued a statement apologizing for "this sorry mess" and his "reckless and irresponsible acts" in driving drunk.
Zielinski was fined $924 Monday and had driver's license revoked for eight months.