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Judge grants motion to strike hate-crime enhancer for Mequon attorney charged for spitting on teen

Judge grants motion to strike hate-crime enhancer for Mequon attorney charged for spitting on teen

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(Clockwise from left) Judge Glenn Yamahiro explains his decision to strike a hate-crime enhancer added to Stephanie Rapkin's disorderly conduct charge during a Zoom hearing on Wednesday. Rapkin; her attorney, Jason Luczak of ; and Alyssa Brown, prosecutor, were on the call.
Judge Glenn Yamahiro listens to arguments before deciding to strike a hate-crime enhancer added to Stephanie Rapkin’s disorderly conduct charge during a Zoom hearing on Wednesday. Rapkin; her attorney, Jason Luczak of GRGB Law; and Allysa Brown, prosecutor, were on the call.

A Mequon attorney charged for spitting in the face of a teenager will not have a hate-crime enhancer added to her disorderly conduct charge.

On Wednesday, Milwaukee County Judge Glenn Yamahiro granted a motion to strike the hate-crime modifier added to the charge against Stephanie Rapkin, an estate planning and probate attorney.

A criminal complaint filed against Rapkin accuses her of spitting in a 17-year-old’s face during a peaceful protest in June 2020, and then resisting arrest and kneeing a police officer in the groin when police went to her Shorewood home the next day to arrest her.

During Wednesday’s motion hearing, Yamahiro said he couldn’t find probable cause that Rapkin, who is white, targeted the teenager because he was Black. He said what was set forth in the criminal complaint to sustain a hate crime penalty enhancer wasn’t enough to get in front of a jury.

“It does not appear, based on my review of the facts here, that at any time Ms. Rapkin approached anyone prior to the spitting, or sought anyone out, or targeted anyone as an individual,” Yamahiro said. “In fact, the reverse seems to be true.”

Yamahiro cited Wisconsin v. Mitchell, a 1993 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court found Wisconsin’s penalty enhancer to be constitutional. Yamahiro said Mitchell had premeditated intentions that led to beating a boy based on his race, while Rapkin found herself surrounded by people who were yelling at her and reacted.

“There’s a marked difference here between the facts as alleged in the criminal complaint against Ms. Rapkin and the facts as set forth against Mr. Mitchell,” Yamahiro said. “… In this case, there is nothing in the criminal complaint to indicate that Ms. Rapkin knew there was a protest going on when she left her house. It’s significant in my mind that at no time did she approach other people physically.”

Prior to striking the enhancer, Yamahiro also rejected a third amended complaint filed by the state in the last few days. He said the case had been briefed based on the second amended complaint, and given the time that had passed, Rapkin’s rights would be prejudiced.

While explaining his decision on the hate-crime motion, Yamahiro said he didn’t find that the third amended complaint would change much.

A motion hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23 at the Milwaukee County courthouse. A trial date will be discussed at that time.

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