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Judge pleads no contest to disorderly conduct (UPDATE)

Waukesha County Circuit Judge Linda Van De Water and her attorney, Steve Kohn, listen as Judge Gerald Ptacek concludes a hearing Monday at Racine’s Law Enforcement Center. Van De Water pled no contest to disorderly conduct and was fined $100. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Linda Van De Water avoided trial and pleaded no contest to a disorderly conduct ordinance violation Monday morning in Racine County.

The settlement, approved by Judge Gerald Ptacek, came three days before Van De Water was scheduled to stand trial for misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

A letter submitted by Van De Water’s attorney, Steve Kohn, to the Racine County District Attorney’s Office indicated the judge had undergone counseling after she allegedly violently confronted an ex-boyfriend and a woman he was with in Caledonia this year.

Kohn declined to discuss the type of treatment Van De Water underwent, but he did say the alleged incident should never have resulted in criminal charges.

“I don’t believe what happened,” Kohn said in an interview, “was a crime.”

Van De Water declined to comment.

Given Van De Water’s status as a judge, Kohn said she unfairly was charged at the outset.

The Kohn & Smith Law Offices attorney said he was prepared to litigate the case, but once the opportunity arose to be treated the same as any citizen, he and his client were able to resolve it short of trial.

“Everyone is bending over backwards to say we want to treat Judge Van De Water the same as we treat everyone else,” Kohn said. “I don’t believe charging this as a criminal charge did that.”

Racine County District Attorney Mike Nieskes could not immediately be reached for comment and assistant district attorney Andrew Wier, who appeared in court Monday, declined to comment.

But Ptacek said from the bench that Van De Water had requested to not appear in court Monday and he required her presence to avoid the perception that she was getting preferential treatment.

He said it was routine to have defendants appear in person to resolve ordinance violations.

“I realize we are both judges,” Ptacek said. “I think everyone is aware that we are not treating Ms. Van De Water any differently than we would any other defendant.”

He went on to tell Van De Water that her behavior is intolerable as an elected official and is amplified in the public eye because of her position as a judge.

Van De Water was re-elected to her second six-year term in 2009.

“I hope you understand,” Ptacek said, “that you can’t conduct yourself like this.”

According to the criminal complaint filed March 25, Van De Water kicked and jumped on the hood of a man’s car as he tried to drive away from a residence Jan. 17.

The episode began when Van De Water, 48, frantically pounded on the door of a woman’s apartment at 2 a.m. in Caledonia looking for her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Christopher Stone, according to the complaint.

When he came out of the house next door and got into the car, she jumped on the hood and started screaming at the man, according to the complaint, and he got out of the car and pushed her away. The judge then got in an SUV and followed the man.

According to the complaint, Van De Water later was seen in the woman’s yard and later confronted Stone and the woman at Brookfield restaurant.

Van De Water could have been sentenced to up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines had she been convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Instead, she has 30 days to pay $100 fine for the ordinance violation.


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