A Mequon lawyer was arrested twice over the weekend for first spitting in a teenage protester’s face and then kneeing a police officer in the groin when he tried to put her in handcuffs.
Stephanie Rapkin, a 64-year-old Shorewood resident, is an estate planning and probate attorney at the Law Office of Stephanie Rapkin in Mequon.
A video that went viral on social media showed Rapkin arguing with protesters on Saturday afternoon about parking her car in the middle of Oakland Avenue to block a peaceful demonstration. The video shows her spitting in the face of a teenager during the confrontation. The Shorewood Police Department said officers identified and arrested her on Saturday night.
Because of the Milwaukee County Jail’s COVID-19 policies, Rapkin was not held behind bars on Saturday. But the police department said it would be sending criminal charges to the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
The following day there surfaced a second video, this one of a confrontation between Rapkin and peaceful protesters. The protesters had been outside her home on the 4200 block of North Ardmore Avenue in Shorewood writing messages in chalk on the sidewalk. The video shows Rapkin arguing with a protester and pushing him.
The victim reported the assault to Shorewood Police. Officers, after various unsuccessful attempts, were finally able to speak with her, telling her she was under arrest for battery and disorderly contact. Police said she had tried to resist the officers’ attempt to put her in handcuffs and kneed one of the officers in the groin.
She was taken into custody, and the Milwaukee County Jail agreed to accept her on Sunday. Her bail was set at $950.
The Shorewood Police Department said it would seek charges of battery, disorderly conduct, battery to a law enforcement officer and resisting/obstructing an officer.
At a press conference on Monday, Shorewood School District Superintendent Davis Will called for the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office to include a hate-crime enhancer on the charges against Rapkin for spitting on the teenager.
“This was not only a disorderly behavior,” Wills said, “It was a racial hatred aimed at disrupting a peaceful demonstration, and it cannot be tolerated.”
Eric Lucas, the student who was spit on, is a junior at Shorewood High School. He said he was physically and mentally shaken by the assault.
“Again and again, I’m viewed not as a child but as a color,” Lucas said. “I am disappointed and feeling unloved by individuals I’ve done no harm to.”
In a statement released on Twitter on Sunday, the State Bar of Wisconsin officials said they were “disturbed and disgusted by the actions of an attorney who allegedly spat in the face of a protester”
“The behavior of lawyers and others directly contributes to the public’s confidence in our justice system,” the State Bar tweeted. “We unequivocally support equal justice and the right of all citizens to peacefully protest.”
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Michael Maistelman of Maistelman & Associates in Milwaukee filed a complaint with the Office of Lawyer Regulation about Rapkin’s possible professional misconduct.
The complaint alleges Rapkin had violated the Attorney’s Oath, broke the rules of professional conduct and committed misconduct with her actions.
Bill Weigel, litigation counsel with the OLR, said the office couldn’t provide information about the matter because Wisconsin Supreme Court rules require that communications about alleged attorney misconduct be kept confidential.
“OLR takes very seriously every allegation that an attorney may have committed misconduct,” Weigel said in an email. “We emphasize prompt and fair processing (assessment and investigation) of all misconduct allegations.”
Rapkin graduated from the California Western School of Law in 1982. She was admitted to practice law in Wisconsin the same year. According to State Bar of Wisconsin records, she is an active member in good standing.