MINNEAPOLIS — A search warrant filed in Becker County last month shows Hennepin County Sheriff David Hutchinson initially denied driving the vehicle he later admitted to crashing while driving drunk near Alexandria on Dec. 8.
The warrant, filed on Dec. 10, states Hutchinson told both witnesses and responding deputies several times that he was not the person driving his county-owned vehicle involved in a rollover crash on Interstate 94.
The documents go on to say Hutchinson, who “had a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating” from him, told a Douglas County sheriff's deputy at the scene, “that he had called a cab and that the cab driver was driving the vehicle.”
Hutchinson pleaded guilty a few days later to a single count of driving while intoxicated in the 4th degree.
“We cannot have a sheriff who lies to police officers,” said University of Minnesota Law Professor Richard Painter, who specializes in legal and government ethics.
“It is a crime to lie to a police officer,” Painter said. “And to have a Hennepin County Sheriff who himself lied to a police officer means that there is no credibility in law enforcement unless we remove him.”
Hutchinson was not charged with lying to law enforcement and has not returned KARE 11’s request for comment on the claims in the search warrant.
Hutchinson had attended the Minnesota Sheriff's Association 2021 winter conference at the Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria on the night of the crash. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
A judge sentenced him to a 90-day stayed sentence, a $610 fine, and two years of probation for the DWI. Hutchinson must also complete a chemical assessment, have no driver's license or alcohol violations, and must abstain from alcohol and controlled substances.
Hutchinson previously released a statement after pleading guilty, saying in part that he is enrolled in an outpatient treatment program to address his "issues with alcohol" and his "overall health."
"This is the first step in the road toward recovery and regaining the trust of the people I work with and the residents of Hennepin County whom I serve," the statement went on to say. "I have returned to work and will focus on my duties as Sheriff."
However, Professor Painter said these latest revelations that Hutchinson was not honest with deputies at the crash site are even more damaging to his ability to be sheriff than the drunk driving crash itself.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case known as Brady v. Maryland that prosecutors must disclose evidence or information that would prove the innocence of a defendant or would enable the defense to impeach the credibility of government witnesses.
Law enforcement officers known to have been dishonest are often referred to as “Brady cops.”
“Does this make Sheriff Hutchinson what’s known as a Brady cop because his credibility can be impeached?” KARE 11’s A.J. Lagoe asked.
“This could very well put the sheriff in a situation where a prosecutor could not put him on the stand,” Painter replied. “He would have no credibility as a witness in a criminal case, that’s one of the many ways in which the sheriff would not be able to do his job.”
KARE 11 reached out to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to ask if the search warrant showing Sheriff Hutchinson tried to mislead investigators at the crash scene will cause them to list him as a Brady officer.
They have not yet responded.
Read the full warrant below: