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Ex-Bayfield County DA facing misconduct charges

An Ashland attorney faces a public reprimand over alleged misconduct while he was a prosecutor in Bayfield County.

The Office of Lawyer Regulation on March 25 filed a complaint charging Craig Haukaas of Haukaas Law Office in Ashland with three counts of misconduct that allegedly occurred in 2010 and 2011, during his final term as Bayfield County district attorney in Washburn. Haukaas was district attorney there for 12 years.

The first count stems from a criminal case in which Haukaas prosecuted a criminal defendant for breaking into a home in February 2011 and stealing property, which included a 12-gauge shotgun Haukaas had loaned to the victim.

Haukaas was the only prosecutor in the county. However, he could have requested a special prosecutor using a state statute, according to the complaint.

The OLR alleges that Haukaas’ prosecuting the case amounts to a violation of the attorney-ethics rules banning lawyers from representing a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest.

The remaining two counts of misconduct stem from the case of Donald King, whom Haukaas charged in January 2010 with sexually assaulting a child, incest and one count of causing a child to watch or listen to sex. Haukaas later added a drug charge.

After Haukaas’ shotgun was stolen in February 2011, Haukaas told local defense attorneys that if any client of theirs returned a gun stolen during the robbery, he would take that into consideration in his sentencing recommendation.

King’s attorney, Tyler Wickman, and Haukaas told the court in April 2011 that they had reached a plea agreement. King in May pleaded no contest to two of the charges and Haukaas dismissed the remaining charges.

The parties intended to make a sentencing recommendation calling for King to spend seven years in prison and four years in extended supervision. However, after Wickman told Haukaas that King had Haukaas’ shotgun, they agreed to recommend 5-1/2 years in prison and four years of supervision, which was what had been recommended in the pre-sentence investigation report.

Haukaas picked up the shotgun at Wickman’s office, took it to a gun shop and left it there, according to the complaint. Haukaas only turned the gun over to the Bayfield Sheriff’s Department after the department had asked about the missing shotgun and the burglary case.

Again, the OLR alleges that Haukaas did not recuse himself from prosecuting the case. King was sentenced in October.

The OLR alleges that Haukaas’ conduct in King’s case amounted to another violation of the rule banning lawyers from representing clients if a concurrent conflict exists, as well as a rule banning lawyers from representing clients if that representation would result in a violation of the ethics rules or the law.

The OLR is asking the Wisconsin Supreme Court to publicly reprimand Haukaas.
Haukaas has until May 13 to file a response to the OLR’s complaint, according to court records. He declined to comment on the complaint.

The court previously disciplined Haukaas in 2011, publicly reprimanding him for making a false statement to a tribunal in 2006.

Haukaas, who has been admitted to practice in Wisconsin since 1992, earned his law degree from the University of Idaho in 1987. His license is in good standing, according to the OLR and Wisconsin State Bar websites.

About Erika Strebel,

Erika Strebel is the law beat reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal and a law school student at UW-Madison. She can be reached at 414-225-1825.

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