Earlier this week we learned that charges had been dropped against state Superintendent of Public Schools Kirsten Baesler. According to the prosecutor, he didn’t feel he had a strong enough case because the witnesses of the alleged domestic violence did not back up the story told by Baesler’s (I’m assuming former by now) fiance Todd Tschosik.
Some of you, via email and in the comments here on SAB, have questioned why they charges were dropped. I’ve obtained the full police investigation report of the incident, and it’s not hard to see why the prosecutors didn’t feel they had a strong case. In fact, I’m convinced that there doesn’t seem to be any criminal behavior here at all (though a lot of bad decision making).
You can read the full document below. Photos from the report are here.
Tschosik alleged in his statement to police that Baesler became irate when the subject of her marrying Tschosik came up after a long night of drinking. A bar owner interviewed by investigators said Baesler had two martinis while Tschosik had two martinis, five Jameson drinks, and two shots according to a tab he kept for them. There’s no indication how much they’d had to drink before reaching the bar – the Pier Bar in Bismarck – but Baesler was inebriated enough that the bar owner told law enforcement that he prevented her from driving.
Tschosik had apparently invited Baesler and two male friends – Terry Bunk and Jason Stark – to his home after leaving the Pier Bar shortly before 1:00am. That’s when things got ugly.
Tschosik stated to police that Baesler lost control of her temper and began berating Tschosik and his friends after the subject of marriage between the two came up (given the previous incident between Tschosik and Baesler in Florida it’s not hard to imagine why this might be a touchy subject). According to Tschosik, Baesler began throwing things – food and household items – when a candle caught him on the nose.
One of Tschosik’s friends, Mr. Bunk, then drove Baesler away from the residence (they apparently went to Bunk’s home). Tschosik, in the mean time, sent some text messages to Baesler including a selfie showing the injury he alleges took place at her hand (see them to the right). In the last text included in the police report, sent early in the morning the Monday after the incident, Tschosik apologizes to Baesler.
The problem with Tschosik’s story is that the two witnesses on the scene, both his friends, dispute it. Here are the facts:
- Neither Terry Bunk nor Jason Stark say they saw Baesler throw anything directly at Tschosik during the final argument in the kitchen before Baesler left, yet this is when Tschosik alleges that he was struck by a candle.
- All involved acknowledge that Baesler was throwing things, and in her statement Baesler acknowledges throwing candles, but the only person who alleges that Baesler hit Tschosik with a candle is Tschosik.
- Stark told law enforcement that he had to restrain Tschosik with a “bear hug” to keep him from going after Baesler at one point before she was driven away from Tschosik’s home.
- Stark also told Russ, the Pier Bar owner, after the incident that he had “tackled” Tschosik to prevent him from “going after” Baesler, according to the police report. Stark also told Russ that he never saw Tschosik get hit by a candle. One wonders if Tschosik could have gotten the injury to his face (photos here) from being tackled by his friend?
- In Tschosik’s statement he claims he was telling Baesler to leave, but according to Bunk’s report Tschosik actually wanted Baesler to stay and was very upset that she was leaving.
- Tschosik alleges to the police and in the 911 call (more on that in a moment) that his nose was injured. “My nose is crushed,” he told the 911 operator. Yet the selfie he took of himself appears to show an injury to the forehead. The photos police took (see them here) show barely any injury at all. It is hard to tell if the injury is on his nose or his forehead.
Frankly, in this observer’s opinion, this case seems less like an instance of criminal domestic violence than a spurned and vindictive lover looking to vandalize a public reputation after an alcohol-fueled spat. It should also be noted that after filing the initial report Tschosik called officers and asked to drop the charges which they refused to do as the incident involved domestic violence.
Also, consider this from the 911 call Tschosik placed on the night of the incident:
The dispatcher asks, “Who is it?”
The caller says, “Kirstin Baesler, North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction.” He went on to say. “She threw things everywhere. My nose is crushed. I want to file charges on her.”
Who uses the full public title of somebody referred to in a 911 call? Other than someone who is being vindictive?
Frankly, there is enough bad decision making here to go around. And maybe, in the confusion of a heated argument among four people who had been drinking, nobody noticed that Tschsoik took a candle to the nose. But a “maybe” doesn’t get you beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
It seems to me that these charges were dropped appropriately. And I think we should be glad that this incident didn’t escalate into something far more serious for all involved.