Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 24, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Light Sentence Jill Karofsky strikes again.
Last week, the liberal Dane County Circuit Court Judge and state Supreme Court candidate handed down her sentence against former nurse Christopher M. Kaphaem. He faced a maximum of 140 years in prison on 19 felony charges of abusing and causing great bodily harm to nine infants at a Madison hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Karofsky sentenced Kaphaem, 44, to 13 years in prison followed by seven years of extended supervision. He could have received even more time behind bars, but Karofsky ordered three years of the prison sentence to be served concurrently.
Kaphaem also was credited for 143 days time served.
Karofsky finished second in last week’s primary election and will face conservative Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly in the April general election.
The criminal complaint describes a horrifying list of injuries to the infants in UnityPoint Health-Meriter’s NICU between March 2017 and February of last year. A baby described only as “Infant 1” sustained a “Fracture to his skull, a wrist fracture, and left humerus fracture,” according to the criminal complaint.
Child abuse expert, Dr. Barbara Knox previously testified that doctors were concerned about “soft tissue swelling” on the back of the baby’s head.
One infant suffered 17 fractures, including one to the skull and eight to the ribs.
“(The rib) injuries are indicative of someone performing forces to that child, typically squeeze-type forces that are in way excess of any normal care,” Knox testified.
Kaphaem abused the most vulnerable.
The baby identified in the criminal complaint as “Infant 1” had been in the the hospital for nearly three months and had “recently begun breathing on his own without oxygen” in February 2018.
Kapheam’s guilty pleas in September came less than a month after he rejected a plea bargain offer from prosecutors involving the dismissal of some charges against him.
“The only solace in all of this is my son – Infant #4 – constantly reminds me how to be strong,” the mother of an injured boy said during the sentencing hearing. “He’s endured and overcome so much. He’s showing me the way.”
“My son was injured when I wasn’t there,” one mother said at the sentencing hearing, according to the Wisconsin Stater Journal. “I struggle with this guilt daily. I should have stayed. I could have protected my son. This could-have, should-have, would-have battle plays itself over and over in my mind even to this day 2½ years later.”
Karofsky told parents at the sentencing, “This is not your fault. None of it is your fault.”
The lighter sentencing decision is ultimately the responsibility of the judge, however.
Republican Party of Wisconsin spokeswoman Alesha Guenther said “extremists” like Karofsky are eroding the judicial system “by watering down sentences and jeopardizing the safety of our communities.”
“Wisconsinites have had enough of judges like Jill Karofsky handing down soft sentences and putting their families in danger all in the name of some higher ‘progressive cause,’” Guenther said.
Karofsky has earned a reputation of going easy on violent criminals.
As Empower Wisconsin reported earlier this month, the Dane County judge in at least five separate cases withheld sentence for the violent offenders convicted of assaulting police officers, instead ordering parole for crimes that carried a maximum of six years in prison.
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.
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 ordered probation.
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.
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.
Her critics also have chided her for giving a serial child sex offender a lenient sentence after he groped a third child while she was on her way to school.
Karofsky’s campaign has not returned calls seeking comment.