MANKATO — Giving a stranger a wet Willy could get you an annoying look, a profanity riddled verbal response or even a punch in the nose.
When that stranger is a police officer on duty, it turns out it's a crime — a crime that a Mankato officer thought was more than an extra gross misdemeanor. He responded to the wet pokes to his ears by hauling the perpetrator off to the pokey and requesting a felony charge.
Armed with two freshly licked fingers, a former Kiester man home on leave from the Air Force thought it would be funny to give the officer the Willies. Riley Louis Swearingen, 24, of Goldsboro, N.C., was getting on the "drunk bus" after the downtown bars closed early Saturday morning when he allegedly licked a finger on each hand and stuck them into the ears of a police sergeant.
The officer was not amused and Swearingen was immediately arrested, said Cmdr. Jeremy Clifton of the Mankato Department of Public Safety. The sergeant was on the bus talking to the driver when Swearingen boarded at about 2:20 a.m. After feeling two fingers "wet with saliva being pushed into his right and left ear canals, which caused pressure and discomfort," the officer turned around to see Swearingen walking away.
Swearingen then sat down with a group of friends and said, "I just gave the cop a wet Willy" the officer reported.
Swearingen was still in jail Monday afternoon awaiting a court appearance after prosecutors charged him with a felony for assaulting a police officer with bodily fluids. That is the worst charge that was requested by the officer, who didn't go through any testing to see if he might have been infected by the saliva that was left in his ears as a result of the double wet Willy. Lesser charges of fifth-degree assault and disruptive intoxication were also filed by the Blue Earth County attorney's office.
When Swearingen apologized and asked why he was being taken to jail, the officer asked him what would happen if he gave a wet Willy to a higher ranking person in the Air Force. At that point Swearingen allegedly said it would be a big deal and that he wouldn't do that while on duty in the military.
Alcohol was a factor, Clifton said. The criminal complaint filed Monday said Swearingen's BAC was .18, more than twice the legal limit of .08 for driving.
When Swearingen appeared before District Court Judge Kurt Johnson at about 4 p.m. Monday, he explained what happened. He said he had flown to Minnesota from North Carolina because he was supposed to be in a friend's wedding Saturday night. Swearingen said he and friends had gone out Friday night and were heading home when one of his friends stuck a wet finger in his ear.
"I thought it would be incredibly funny to give a police officer a wet Willy, to which I was sorely mistaken," Swearingen explained. "I'm incredibly sorry for what I did. I never thought I would be going to jail for the weekend."
Johnson offered to dismiss the assault charges if Swearingen would agree to plead guilty to the misdemeanor charge of disruptive intoxication. That would allow the airman to get out of jail and return to his duties in North Carolina as an air traffic controller at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.
Swearingen quickly agreed to the deal. He was sentenced to the three days he spent in jail and was told to pay $77 in court costs.