Friday, October 18, 2013

Graeme Zielinski Apologizes

It must be easier to apologize for one's illegal behavior when one isn't really being held accountable.

Graeme Zielinski finds himself in that position.

Zielinski apologized yesterday, making his first public comments on his OWI case.

Dan Bice assists Graeme Zielinski, arrested three time for drunk driving, in delivering his apology to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel readers. Bice treats Zielinski very sympathetically, depicting him as a victim of bullying by conservatives, rather than focusing on the bizarre circumstances resulting in the outcome of his case.

For months, former Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski had kept his lips uncharacteristically zipped after he was charged with operating while intoxicated for the third time.

But now that he and his lawyer, John Bradley, have cut a favorable deal with prosecutors, Zielinski is offering a public apology -- and promising to mend his ways.

"I’ve been mum on the subject, which is not in my character," Zielinski wrote on the liberal website Blogging Blue. "To be honest, a lot of this silence was just sheer embarrassment.

"Now that the legal part of this is concluded, I can say: I’m guilty and I take full and total responsibility for my actions."
His "silence was just sheer embarrassment"?

I don't buy that.

Are we supposed to be impressed with Zielinski's acknowledgment of his guilt?

We saw the dashcam video of Zielinski's June 2, 2013 arrest. Of course, he's admitting he's guilty.

Zielinski's claim that he's taking "full and total responsibility for [his] actions" is a bit twisted.

Monica Hall, the Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney, elected to give Zielinski a free pass.

Hall said Zielinski's attorney contended his client did not have a lawyer represent him when he was charged with his second OWI in Virginia in 1999 and that Zielinski did not "knowingly and intelligently" waive his right to a lawyer in that case.

Hall said the state was unable to dispute Zielinski's account of the Virginia conviction because the records from that case couldn't be located.

After pleading guilty to a first-time OWI this week, Zielinski, 40, was fined $924, his license was revoked for eight months, and he has to have an ignition lock on his vehicle for one year.

Despite all the legal maneuvering that spared Zielinski from a criminal conviction -- and almost certainly time behind bars -- he said he has finally learned his lesson.
Zielinski is taking responsibility for a first-time OWI. He's been arrested three times for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

He claims he didn't understand the need for a lawyer to represent him in his second arrest. And, the records of that second arrest just happen to be unlocatable.

Amazing, isn't it? It's as if it never happened.

The apology Zielinski penned on Blogging Blue does seem sincere.

He speaks of the deaths of his parents, and their struggles with depression and addiction.

He says, "I understand the stakes here in the clearest terms and I also understand that the victims of drunk driving and their families are owed more than pretty words or explanations. Penitence will need to take the form of action.

"So I resolve to amend my actions. I have many faults, but speaking without conviction isn’t one of them. Know that, in this sorry mess, I’m sorry for my reckless and irresponsible acts and that I will work as I go forward to earn the mercy I think that I have been shown, and to be worthy of whatever mercy I still may need."

Zielinski isn't holding back. He's sharing very personal and terribly painful informtion.

He notes he has been shown mercy.

That's for sure, A LOT of mercy.

Hall decided Zielinski was a first-time offender, even though he's not. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spared him the shame of publishing his mug shot, even though others aren't granted that mercy.

I don't think this is a just outcome. Zielinski was cut an incredible amount of slack, too much. His case shows we aren't all equal under the law. That's troubling.

I'm also troubled by Zielinski's revelations about his family. His personal experience with the extremes of human frailty, resulting in such tragedy and loss, didn't teach him compassion. He didn't learn to be kind to others. I don't get that.