SIREN, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating a retired county prosecutor over date requests he allegedly made to women who had cases in his county.
KMSP-TV reports former Burnett County District Attorney William Norine reached out through Facebook to at least six women who were defendants in criminal cases. The women faced criminal charges ranging from drug possession to bad checks, and all but one refused Norine’s proposals, the station reported.
One woman whose two children were in protective custody told the station Norine asked her out through Facebook Messenger. She says she had to respond because she didn’t want to jeopardize her freedom or her children “by ticking him off.”
Norine retired in August at age 65 after 10 years as DA of the western Wisconsin county, citing health issues. In a statement Monday, he said he has violated no ethical rule, and that there is no ethical rule prohibiting communications on matters that do not involve pending cases.
“Prosecution is much more than bringing charges. Many of the defendants I have prosecuted were also victims in other pending cases. In such situations, I am obligated to communicate with them,” Norine said in his statement.
But University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Gregory Sisk, who is not familiar with details of the alleged requests, said it goes against the code of conduct for an attorney to ask a client out on a date. And a prosecutor involved with a defendant would be an “incredibly unequal power dynamic,” Sisk said.
“There is nothing more frightening in our society than to be the subject of a criminal prosecution,” he added.
In an email Monday, a DOJ public information officer told The Associated Press that the matter has been referred to the department, which is investigating. Wisconsin’s Office of Lawyer Regulation has no public complaints against Norine.