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Rottier cites cancer battle in battery plea bargain (UPDATE)

Daniel Rottier

Daniel Rottier

Shortly after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge Friday, Daniel Rottier said his recent battle with cancer had led to drinking and possibly his attack on his wife with a cane earlier this month.

Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan accepted the plea and ordered the president of Habush Habush & Rottier SC to go through the county’s Deferred Prosecution Program, which is generally offered to defendants with no previous criminal record. If Rottier fails to complete the program, Hanrahan said, he could be sentenced to up to nine months in jail and forced to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

In a brief mea culpa statement, Rottier said he was diagnosed last year with dedifferentiated chondrosarcoma, a particularly aggressive type of cancer. Rottier said medical literature describes the prognosis for those who contract the cancer as being “dismal.”

“Although,” he said, “I’m hopeful I’m in the minority that survives.”

In offering the plea deal, Josh Bowland, a Dane County assistant district attorney, also asked for the lifting of any legal orders preventing Rottier from speaking to his family or returning to his house in Maple Bluff. Hanrahan granted the requests and praised Rottier for making use of an opportunity to “atone for your transgression, to embrace change, and to rehabilitate yourself and restore your reputation.”

At the same time, Hanrahan said he did not think all of the blame for Rottier’s conduct could be placed on alcohol.

“You’ve obviously engaged in some meaningful introspection,” he said. “Upon closer examination, however, you might be likely to find that alcohol is but a symptom. It is a dis-inhibitor, and it might not be the source of the rage that you exhibited on this occasion.”

In ordering Rottier to go through Dane County’s Deferred Prosecution Program, Hanrahan said he was taking into account the defendant’s lack of a criminal history, his age and his expressions of remorse. The program is designed to prevent first-time offenders who admit their guilt from going through the criminal court process, thus saving money and letting lawyers and judges devote their time to more serious cases. To complete it, a person must abide by the terms of a contract that usually requires receiving counseling for psychiatric conditions, drug and alcohol abuse, or similar troubles, as well as attending classes and doing similar things.

Rottier, 62, was arrested Feb. 7 after striking his wife, Frankie, on her back with a cane after she confronted him about being drunk, according to a criminal complaint filed Feb. 13. The attack happened at their home.

According to the complaint, Frankie Rottier had a “red welt on her upper left back from her shoulder blade to her spine.”

Daniel Rottier, a trial attorney who works out of Habush Habush & Rottier’s Madison office, was charged Feb. 13 with misdemeanor battery, domestic abuse and the use of a dangerous weapon.

Frankie told police that her husband was supposed to take their children to the movies “but came home and had been drinking.” After Daniel was confronted, he “pulled [his cane] back to strike her, so she turned away, causing the strike to land on her back,” according to Frankie’s version of events in the criminal complaint.

A breath test Daniel took at the Dane County Jail later revealed that he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13, according to the complaint.

Daniel Rottier has practiced law in Wisconsin for more than 36 years. He is well known in the courtroom and the Capitol, has served on the State Bar’s Board of Governors and is a past-president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice. He was one of the Wisconsin Law Journal’s 2009 Leaders in the Law.

Rottier, who was represented in court Friday by Stephen Meyer of the Madison-based Meyer Law Office, said he had turned to drink recently to cope with “stress and pressure and pain.”

“Clearly, that doesn’t work and it contributed to the circumstances here,” he said Friday. “It’s my hope and intent to work through this for my remaining days in a more appropriate manner.”

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@wislawjournal.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at the Wisconsin Law Journal. He can be reached at dan.shaw@wislawjournal.com or at 414-225-1807.

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