State Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, pleaded no contest earlier this month on a charge of municipal disorderly conduct after an altercation with a 9-year-old boy at Spring Harbor Beach that left the child's parents feeling "uncomfortable."
According Madison police, on July 4 Hulsey rode his bike to the beach, located a mile from his home, and entered the water for a swim. Witnesses told police the representative then engaged in "horseplay" with the boy and knocked him off his flotation device. He later took pictures of the boy, according to family members of the child, the report said.
Hulsey was fined $114 for the ticket. He pleaded the fine down on Aug. 15, as first reported in Isthmus in a story posted Wednesday on the weekly newspaper's website. But on Thursday Hulsey told the State Journal that he did not see the police report before deciding on pleading no contest.
"If I had, I would have probably contested (it)," he said. "There are a lot of tall tales in there."
Hulsey, who is in the middle of a campaign to retain an Assembly seat, said he was out meeting voters on his bike when he stopped by the beach as he often does, to take a swim and cool off.
He said that when he got into the water, he saw the boy splashing two young, smaller, girls.
"My father instinct kicked in, so I told him to stop splashing his sisters," said Hulsey, a married father of two. "I was concerned with his behavior and that there were no parents around."
Hulsey said the boy told him the girls were not his sisters. Hulsey said he then went out to deeper water to swim. When he returned, he walked past the boy and intentionally startled him. The boy, he said, fell off the float into a foot of water.
"I never touched him," he said. "There was no horseplay."
But according to the police reports, the child's parents and grandparents were at a house just off the beach and witnessed what they felt was inappropriate behavior by Hulsey, including taking pictures of the children after he got out of the water.
The child's parents — who were identified in the report only by their first names — said Hulsey's actions and photos made them feel "uncomfortable." The father confronted Hulsey, who said that he knew the child's grandparents, who were also only identified by first names.
Hulsey told police, and repeated on Thursday, that he was trying to take a photo of a sailboat and the sunset with his iPhone. The child, he said, was simply in the way. He said the boy asked that Hulsey not take his picture, so he deleted the photo. Police later looked at Hulsey's phone and did not find any pictures of the child.
The representative said the event is a big misunderstanding.
"I am flabbergasted by the whole thing," Hulsey said.