By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel lashed out at the state bar association on Wednesday for nominating a lawyer convicted in a sexual assault years ago for a prestigious award, saying the decision sends a horrible message to victims.
The State Bar of Wisconsin announced on Tuesday that Stephan Addison had won the 2018 Jack DeWitt WisLAP Volunteer Award, which recognizes a lawyer, judge or group that has helped the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program. The program helps attorneys deal with stress, addiction and mental-health troubles.
Addison was convicted in 2006 of second-degree recklessly endangering safety and two counts of misdemeanor sexual gratification in connection with a sexual assault that occurred in 2005 in Green Lake County. According to a criminal complaint, Addison and another man met a woman at a bar in Ripon, convinced her to drive them home and then sexually assaulted her at a boat landing.
“What type of message is the Wisconsin State Bar Association sending to the state and survivors of sexual assault …?” Schimel, a Republican, asked in a news release. “This is a terrible lapse in judgment and Mr. Addison’s award should be pulled.”
Bar President Paul Swanson issued a statement late Wednesday evening saying that many of the volunteer attorneys who work at WisLAP have been through recovery programs themselves, have a background of substance abuse or are wrestling with other troubles.
The volunteers use those experiences to help others’ recovery and the committee that selects the award winner has historically never taken past behavior into consideration, Swanson said.
Still, the award committee plans to reconvene to discuss their selection, Swanson said. He plans to recommend Addison’s nomination be withdrawn as an acknowledgment of “the seriousness of the issue of sexual assault and out of respect to survivors and victims.”
The bar’s website indicates Addison practices law in Illinois. He didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.