Wisconsin State Journal

25 prosecutors punished for misconduct since 1981

September 28, 2007

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has punished at least 25 prosecutors for misconduct since 1981. The investigations were conducted by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) and its predecessor, the Board of Attorneys Professional Responsibility (BAPR). Here are the cases and their dispositions.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Todd Beatse
When cited: 2006
Violations: Browsing pornographic Web sites while at the office and lying during an investigation into his activities; and making offensive comments to a court reporter and in e-mails.
Action taken: Public reprimand. Beatse was fired.

Lincoln County District Attorney James Blask
When cited: 1996
Violations: Providing false information to the police in connection with an incident in which he was charged with and convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct; physically confronting and causing harm to an individual in a courthouse office; and failing to respond to requests for information concerning these matters from BAPR.
Action Taken: Public reprimand

Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Randy Scott Bragdon
When cited: 1981-86
Violations: While serving as an assistant district attorney and assistant county corporation counsel in Milwaukee and Racine counties, Bragdon continued to practice law while suspended from membership in the State Bar of Wisconsin for failure to pay association dues, comply with continuing education requirements and failure to respond to BAPR inquiries.
Action taken: Six-month suspension

Taylor County District Attorney Allen Brey
When cited: 1992
Violation: While a prosecutor, Brey met with a criminal defendant at the jail knowing the defendant was represented by counsel and without that counsel's consent.
Action taken: 60-day suspension

Rock County Assistant District Attorney Stephen Carpenter
When cited: 1990
Violation: While acting as a prosecutor, Carpenter had communications with a known represented party without contacting the party's attorney.
Action taken: Public reprimand

Village of Oregon prosecutor Charles Cell
When cited: 1991
Violation: Disruptive conduct by blocking the doors to the judge's chambers.
Action taken: Public reprimand

Juneau County Assistant District Attorney James Cotter
When cited: 1992
What cited for: Failed to file income tax returns with the state and federal government from 1984 thru 1988. Cotter also failed to file a brief as a respondent in a criminal appeal, even though he received an extension and numerous notifications from the Court of Appeals.
Action taken: Two-year suspension

Beloit Assistant City Attorney Mary Donovan
When cited: 1997
Violations: Engaging in professional misconduct by forging a certificate of completion for the deferred prosecution program and submitting it to the municipal court to obtain dismissal of charges against an acquaintance who had not been enrolled in the program. Donovan also forged a friend's signature on a letter submitted to municipal court requesting a jury trial. Donovan then represented the city on the charge pending against that friend.
Action taken: Six-month suspension

Rock County Assistant District Attorney James Dumke
When cited: 1992
Violations: As prosecutor, Dumke communicated with a party known to be represented by counsel without counsel's consent.
Action taken: Six-month suspension

Lincoln County District Attorney Paul Goetz
When cited: 1993-95
Violations: Goetz used fictitious names in writing letters critical of the district attorney that he sent to the newspaper and to the Lincoln County District Attorney. The district attorney launched an investigation into the identity of the letter writer. Subsequently, Goetz ran for district attorney and was elected. He then used his position as district attorney to advise the sheriff not to release documents from the investigation under the open-records law. Goetz was cited for conflict of interest, dishonesty and misrepresentation.
Action taken: Public reprimand

Dodge County District Attorney Kenneth N. Johnson
When cited: 1987
Violation: Johnson failed to withdraw from prosecuting a worthless check case in order to thwart an investigation into his own alleged improper conduct in the case.
Action taken: Public reprimand and repay $12,156 in costs for the investigation

Kenosha Assistant District Attorney Carl Jordan (2 citations)
When cited: 2001
Violations: Practiced with a suspended license due to non-compliance with continuing education requirements.
Action taken: Public reprimand

Second citation: 2002
Violation: Engaged in sexual relations with a defendant's girlfriend, causing conflict of interest.
Action taken: Suspended with pay from the Kenosha County District Attorney's Office and soon after resigned.

Juneau County District Attorney Jonathan Lindberg
When cited: 1992
Violations: Failed to promptly provide dispositional orders in numerous juvenile cases and to make timely contact with a victim in a criminal matter, resulting in the dismissal of the criminal charges. As a private practitioner, Lindberg failed to file final documents to close three probate estates, and he failed to respond to BAPR.
Action taken: Six-month suspension

Winnebago County District Attorney Joseph Paulus
When cited: 2004
Violations: Accepted bribes to fix cases and perform other favors for defendants; filed a false income tax return; engaged in conflict of interest; made false statements to a tribunal; committed a criminal act that reflects adversely on his fitness as an attorney; engaged in conduct involving fraud, dishonesty deceit or misrepresentation.
Action taken: License revocation

Vilas County District Attorney David Penn
When cited: 1993
Violations: While serving as Vilas County district attorney from 1987 through 1992, Penn used marijuana and cocaine, for which he was subsequently convicted. Penn also acted as district attorney in respect to referral and prosecution of nine people who had used illegal drugs with him or had personal knowledge of his drug use.
Action taken: Two-year suspension

Sauk County Assistant District Attorney Annette Sanders
When cited: 1988
Violations: Engaged in professional misconduct by making misrepresentations to the court in two criminal matters.
Action taken: 60-day suspension

Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney William Watson
When cited: 1992
Violations: Had possession of and used cocaine in a judge's chambers while the judge was absent; used cocaine and marijuana on other occasions; and directed his secretary to falsify a driver's license receipt for a friend whose license had been suspended.
Action taken: One-year suspension

Pierce County Assistant District Attorney Rodney Zemke
When cited: 1993-94
Violations: Zemke obtained multiple prescriptions for Valium, not telling the physicians of the others' prescriptions. The prosecutor was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to 60 days in jail.
Action taken: Public reprimand

Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf
When cited: Pre-1988
Violations: Communicated with a party without the permission of the party's attorney. In another case, withheld a witness statement from defense counsel that he was obligated to turn over.
Action taken: Public reprimand and repay costs of the proceeding.

**Six private reprimands were issued against unidentified prosecutors for the following violations: Meeting with defendants without their attorneys' permission (two cases); failure to give a defendant a reasonable opportunity to obtain counsel; failure to send the defendant a copy of a letter he'd sent to a judge; labeling a defendant facing trial a "cocaine queen" of a certain county; and lying to a defense attorney that photographs implicating his client in a crime existed when they did not.

SOURCE: Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation electronic database
— Compiled by Tammi Jo Dunderi, Dee J. Hall

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