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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 6.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Chad Lee campaign worker Kyle Wood recants story that he was attacked for being gay and Republican
Mark Pocan and husband consider lawsuit over texting accusations
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Kyle Wood
Kyle Wood
Credit:Seth Jovaag

Kyle Wood, a campaign worker for the Republican congressional candidate Chad Lee, today recanted his statements about being assaulted and choked at his home on Oct. 24, according to Madison police.

The department updated its incident report late Monday afternoon after Wood met with detectives.

Captain Joe Balles, commander of the South District, confirms that Wood recanted his allegations of the beating.

Although he would not go into detail about the case, Balles said, "I updated that press release because I felt it was imperative we get something out there because of the politically charged background this was happening in."

He said that the department will do its "due diligence" and discuss with the district attorney's office whether any charges will be filed against Wood.

"We're in the victims business," he says. "We really need victims to come forward. We don't take matters like this lightly."

Earlier Monday afternoon, a spokesman for Rep. Mark Pocan and an attorney representing his partner, Philip Frank, said they were considering suing for libel over claims that Frank threatened Wood.

Pocan is running against Lee for the 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Tammy Baldwin, who is running for U.S. Senate.

Wood, who is gay, originally claimed he was attacked because of his politics and sexual orientation.

"It was terrifying," Wood told Christian Schneider of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "All of a sudden, there was something around my neck, so I couldn't breathe -- I mean, I could breathe enough to live, but I couldn't scream. All I could think about was getting it off my neck."

Wood did not return calls from Isthmus.

Asked if Wood also recanted his allegations about receiving text messages from Frank, Balles paused before saying, "Those did not occur. I'm not going to get into the specifics of how we know that."

A conservative website, Media Trackers, reported early Monday that Frank had sent a series of abusive and threatening text messages to Wood in the days leading up to the attack. Author Brian Sikma does not say what steps he took to verify the text messages or what number they were sent from. The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion website, first reported the attack, painted it as payback for Wood not supporting Pocan, who is, like Wood, openly gay.

Pocan's campaign manager, Dan McNally, denied the allegations in an email statement: "These allegations are completely false. These text messages are fabricated and we've referred this matter to Madison police. We are currently in discussions with an attorney and intend to sue for libel or defamation."

Frank's lawyer, Tamara Packard, also denied Frank had anything to do with the text messages or attack. Asked if her client is going to sue, she said: "We're considering all of our options."

Late Monday afternoon, Media Trackers removed the bulk of its original story, including the alleged texts between Frank and Wood. Originally headlined "Mark Pocan's Husband Told Beaten GOP Operative 'You're A Marked Man,' Threatened and Harassed Via Text Message," it now reads "Allegations Fly in Beating of Gay GOP Volunteer."

However, elements of that original report remain visible in many places online. The report's headline and opening paragraphs remain published on Red Alert Politics, another conservative website. Additionally, several tweets (here, here and here) by Sikma about the alleged texts remain published on his Twitter account, as well as another by prominent Milwaukee radio host Charlie Sykes.

Later Monday afternoon, the Madison Police Department updated its incident report on the alleged attack to note that it would be cleared as "Unfounded." It read:

In an interview this afternoon with Madison Police detectives, the victim in this case recanted his earlier statements in regards to this crime. This crime, alleged to have occurred on High Street in the South Police District, will be cleared as "Unfounded" for case reporting purposes. Once follow up investigation is completed, MPD's case file will be reviewed with Dane County District Attorney's Office.

The bizarre episode comes just days before the Nov. 6 election, which Pocan is heavily favored to win.

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