Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 11, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Dane County Circuit Judge Jill Karofsky has been accused of being soft on crime. Multiple rulings suggest the Supreme Court justice candidate has been even softer on criminals who attack police officers.
In at least five separate cases, Karofsky withheld sentence for the violent offenders, instead ordering parole for crimes that carried a maximum of six years in prison, according to case files obtained by Empower Wisconsin.
Karofsky and Marquette University Law professor Ed Fallone are the two liberals running for the Supreme Court seat held by incumbent conservative Justice Daniel Kelly.
In one case before Karofsky, a female police officer was viciously assaulted by a suspect in possession of a handgun and bags of heroin and cocaine.
Martin J. Jacob, 17, was arrested in February 2019 on felony charges of battery to a law enforcement officer and possession of narcotics. He was also charged with obstructing a police officer and unlawfully carrying a concealed weapon. While Madison police officers were arresting Jacob, he head-butted a female law enforcement official, giving her a “very noticeable bruise on the right side of her forehead.”
Karofsky found Jacob guilty of battery, but gave him two years probation instead of a prison sentence. Granting the terms of a plea deal, the judge dismissed five other counts, including possession of heroin, cocaine, and carrying a concealed weapon. Last month, Jacob was charged with battery with use of a dangerous weapon, and disorderly conduct. Karofsky is again the presiding judge.
In another case, a repeat offender threatened the lives of police officers on two separate incidents occurring within days of each other. Karofsky withheld sentencing and handed out probation.
Gene E. Rouse, 48, no known address, was arrested of Feb. 23, 2019 on charges of threatening a police officer and resisting. Rouse, who has a long rap sheet that includes convictions on burglary and theft, was arrested after he became disorderly and screamed racial epithets at his fellow passengers on a Madison Metro bus, according to court documents. When an officer attempted to take Rouse into custody, he shouted, “I’m gonna kill you,” among other threats. He continued to do so through the booking process.
Then, days later, on March 8, police were called to deal with Rouse again, this time passed out drunk on a city bus, court documents state. Rouse, whose blood alcohol content level was more than three times the legal limit, threatened the arresting officer, declaring that, “18 people watching you.” “You just got killed, dude,” he threatened the officer.
Despite Rouse’s long record and repeated incidents of threatening police officers, Karofsky withheld sentence and gave Rouse two years of probation. She ordered that the convicted felon remain sober and receive treatment. He previously had received credit for 98 days served in jail awaiting sentencing.
In another case, a Mount Horeb woman kicked, swung at and bit a Mount Horeb female police officer, screaming, “I’m going to kill you, you (expletives deleted),” court documents show. When Emergency Services workers drew blood from Sierra M. Tanner during a blood alcohol test, the suspect “flicked her blood” at the officer.
Karofsky, again, found the offender guilty and granted a plea deal and withheld sentence. Tanner got two years of probation.
“These cases display the continuing pattern that Jill Karofsky is unwilling to hold criminals accountable and keep our communities safe,” said Alesha Guenther, deputy communications for the Wisconsin GOP. “In these instances, Karofsky wouldn’t even give criminals convicted of assaulting police officers a single day behind bars.”
The Supreme Court candidate has said she will be a social justice advocate who, if elected, would use her seat on the court as a bully pulpit for criminal justice reform.
“I won’t be able to pass laws, right?” Karofsky said in a secretly recorded video obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But I will be able to listen and I’ll be able to talk about what I see. I believe we need to reform the criminal justice system in the state of Wisconsin.”
The concern from Karofsky’s critics is that she will try to reform the criminal justice system from the bench. They accuse her of being soft on crime during the former prosecutor’s three year’s on the bench. The Republican Party of Wisconsin has pointed to Karofsky’s ruling in the case of Cleaster Moon, a 24-year-old felon charged last year as the “kingpin” of a string of burglaries and robberies in Dane and Waukesha counties.
As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, In 2018, Karofsky initially sentenced Moon to probation in a plea deal recommended by prosecutors. But after his probation was revoked, she ordered him to 1½ years in prison and 1½ years extended supervision. Because of the time served behind bars while awaiting sentencing, he was back out on the street in six months.
Karofsky’s campaign did not not return a call seeking comment.