Joe McGinniss, author of a controversial new biography of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, was charged in connection with a hit-and-run incident in Wasilla, Alaska in July 2010, police and court records show.
McGinniss had moved to Wasilla in the spring of 2010 to work on his book, and rented the house next door to the Palin family, prompting Palin and her husband to erect a higher fence to protect their children’s privacy.
On July 12, 2010, at about 2 p.m., McGinnis was allegedly driving an overdue rental car when he collided with an unoccupied vehicle parked near Kaladi Brothers, a popular local coffee shop, causing minor but “disabling” damage.
The vehicle was owned by 61-year-old Waureen Darilek, a beloved local dog groomer who has since passed away due to natural causes.
According to an affidavit by police officer Daniel M. Bennett, McGinnis failed to report the accident, and left the scene, but not before a bystander recorded his license plate and left a note for the owner of the parked vehicle.
When Bennett arrived to investigate, he discovered McGinniss’s vehicle nearby, and notified the rental car company, which impounded the vehicle and brought it back to Anchorage, roughly 30 miles away.
Two hours after the collision occurred, McGinniss called the police–not to report the accident, but to report that his rental car had been stolen.
Officer Bennett met McGinniss at his rented home next door to the Palins, and recorded the following in his police report:
At approximately 1643 hours, I met with Joseph MCGINNISS because he wanted to report his rental car as stolen. Joseph MCGINNISS stated that he parked his vehicle in front of the brick building, approximately 6 spaces down from Kaladi Brother’s, went inside to meet with some friends, when he returned to his vehicle he discovered his vehicle was gone. I noted that Joseph MCGINNISS did not make any statements about hitting another vehicle.
I asked Joseph MCGINNISS if he had consumed any alcohol and he denied consuming any alcohol. I then advised Joseph MCGINNISS that his vehicle was observed by witnesses as hitting another vehicle. Joseph MCGINNISS then admitted that he hit a red pick-up and was sitting inside of Kaladi Brother’s looking out the window, waiting for the owner of the red pick-up to return…
In an interview, Bennett told me that he found McGinniss’s story odd at the time.
“He hit the [other] car, parked the [rental] car, and went to the shop. He said he was looking for the driver of the parked car in the shop, but became engrossed in a conversation, and claimed he didn’t see his vehicle being towed. It was hard for me to believe.”
Bennett told me that he had initially suspected that alcohol might have been involved, because he had found an old receipt from a liquor store in McGinniss’s unlocked vehicle. McGinniss easily passed a breath test, which showed no alcohol in his system.
However, given McGinniss’s evasions, “I thought he had committed a crime,” Bennett recalled. The official accident report states that there was “probable cause” that McGinniss “did fail to give immediate Notice of an Accident.”
McGinniss was charged with leaving the scene of an accident. He was not arrested, but received a summons to court. The charges were eventually dropped.
“I charged him with a crime, and it was later resolved outside of the criminal justice system,” Bennet told me. He allowed that McGinniss might have been guilty of “an oversight on his part.”
McGinniss had not responded to my request for comment at the time of publication.
The criminal complaint and collision report are below.