Why did Adam Jarchow and Mandela Barnes refuse to protect prosecutors, cops, and their families?
Two of the candidates running in Wisconsin primaries for major state offices – Mandela Barnes and Adam Jarchow – voted against a state law that made it a felony to batter a prosecutor and to threaten a law enforcement officer or batter their family members.
The language in Assembly Bill 347 was pretty straightforward. It was proposed by a group of Republican legislators. An analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau reads, “Assembly Bill 347 provides that it is a Class H felony to either cause bodily harm or threaten to cause bodily harm to the person of or family of a judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or public defender.”
In this, they were outliers. Only 15 members of the state Assembly voted “no.” The bill passed 80-15 with many Democrats joining all other Republicans to vote “yes.” Mandela Barnes and Adam Jarchow joined radical Democrats like David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff in refusing to protect cops, public defenders, and prosecutors, and their family members. The bill was proposed on the heels of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and growing threats to law enforcement officers throughout the country.
What specifically did the bill change?
The previous law only made it a felony to batter a law enforcement officer and to batter or threaten a judge or the judge’s family member, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau.
The new law expanded that to include battery or threats to prosecutors; battery or threats to public defenders; threats to law enforcement officers; and battery or threats to the families of law enforcement officers. It also expanded the law to include former members of those positions. Indeed, bizarrely, the law that Jarchow opposed also would have made it a felony to batter the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s family.
Jarchow, a former legislator, is running as a Republican for state Attorney General; he is claiming that he is pro-police in sponsored Facebook ads and other campaign materials and appearances; a recent Jarchow ad read, “Stop crime. Support police!” However, his 2015 vote against Assembly Bill 347 shows he refused to do that when he had a chance.
Mandela Barnes, a Democrat, is the current Lieutenant Governor for Gov. Tony Evers. He is running for the U.S. Senate against Republican Senator Ron Johnson. Barnes is unabashedly anti police. He is a supporter of eliminating cash bail nationally. Barnes’ comments on the Jacob Blake shooting by a Kenosha police officer were factually wrong, inflammatory, and arguably incited the riots that followed. Kenosha burned the night of Barnes’ tweet. [See our story on Mandela Barnes’ 4 most shameful moments here.]
Whereas Barnes’ antipathy for law enforcement is well-known, Jarchow casts himself as a police supporter.
We are examining Jarchow’s record because we believe that voters want a law-and-order Attorney General in a time of skyrocketing violent crime; in contrast, Democratic AG Josh Kaul has prioritized partisan politics. The other Republican in that race is Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, the president-elect of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association.
In an email rant following our previous story that the Wisconsin Professional Police Association had ranked him the second worst legislator in the state Assembly, Jarchow wrote of Wisconsin Right Now, “They also attacked me for voting against a bill that I believed didn’t do enough to protect people who work in the criminal justice system. And actually attacking a law enforcement officer in Wisconsin was already a felony, the same as the proposed bill in question.”
When we first asked him about his no vote, he only responded to the portion of questioning that was about the ranking. He did say, “Law enforcement officers who know me best recognize how much I support our brave men and women in uniform.”
Jarchow, who said on audio after leaving the Legislature that he believes tensions in the community against police are exacerbated because there are too many felony crimes on the books, did not propose an amendment to the bill. After leaving the Legislature, he acknowledged in a podcast (while not specifically citing this bill), “When I was in the Legislature, I spent so much time voting against and fighting bills that turned things into felonies.”
His email omits the fact that the bill greatly expanded protections for those who work in the criminal justice system and their families. The bill made threats and battery to more members of the criminal justice system and their families felonies, the most serious crime available to legislators.
The law has been used since; for example, Taylor Schabusiness, the Wisconsin woman recently accused of beheading her boyfriend in a horrific crime, was convicted of a felony under the statute last year. A heroin dealer was accused of threatening a prosecutor, although he was acquitted by a Waushara County jury.
The threats are real; in 2013, the New York Times reported that at least 13 prosecutors had been murdered throughout the country. Sometimes those threats extend to family members. In 2008, a Denver-area prosecutor named Sean May was murdered; in 2003, an assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore named Jonathan P. Luna was slain, as but two examples reported in the Times’ story. In 2017, Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, were murdered in their Texas home. His deputy prosecutor was also slain. The killer is on death row; he was being prosecuted for theft.
Scott Burns, then executive director of the National District Attorneys Association in Alexandria, Va., told The Times, “I don’t think it’s any question that prosecutors are extremely vulnerable.” We have contacted the NDAA for additional comment.
The Legislative Reference Bureau explained at the time,
“Under current law, a person who intentionally causes bodily harm to a law enforcement officer acting in his or her official capacity is guilty of a Class H felony if the actor knows or has reason to know that the victim is a law enforcement officer. Also under current law, a person who intentionally causes or threatens to cause bodily harm to a judge or a member of a judge’s family is guilty of a Class H felony if at the time of the act or threat the person knew or should have known that the victim is a judge or a member of his or her family, and the judge is acting in his or her official capacity, or the act or threat is a response to any action taken in an official capacity.”
What did the new law say that Barnes and Jarchow opposed?
“Assembly Bill 347 provides that it is a Class H felony to either cause bodily harm or threaten to cause bodily harm to the person of or family of a judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or public defender under any of the following circumstances:
-The person causing or threatening to cause the harm knows or should have known that the victim is a judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or public defender or a member of a judge’s, law enforcement officer’s, prosecutor’s, or public defender’s family;
-The act or threat is in response to any action taken by the judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or public defender in an official capacity; or
-The judge, law enforcement officer, prosecutor, or public defender is acting in his or her official capacity at the time of the act or threat.”
In a podcast with the DrydenWire after he left the Legislature, Jarchow made it clear that he feels there are too many felony crimes in Wisconsin, although he didn’t specifically tie that comment to his no vote on the law enforcement battery/threat bill.
He argued, though, that there would be “less tension” between the community and police in general if fewer crimes were felonies. He indicated he believes there is a “problem” there.
“A bigger picture issue is, you know, if we want there to be less tension and interaction between law enforcement and the community maybe politicians should stop making everything we do every day illegal. And not only making it illegal but continuing to ratchet it up. Used to be a misdemeanor, now it’s a felony,” he said in the podcast.
“Everything that you can imagine in life is a felony all of a sudden. And when I was in the Legislature, I spent so much time voting against and fighting bills that turned things into felonies. Not because I thought necessarily that it was a good idea to do this or that, but because we can’t criminalize everything in the world. Sometimes in a free society we have to be responsible for ourselves and our own communities; by making everything illegal we just have more law enforcement interaction with community members, and I think that’s part of the problem. If we could focus on the big issues and leave some of these… nitpicky things alone and tell politicians stop making new laws for a while, I feel it would be a much better situation for law enforcement.”
Here is the state statute on the threat/battery bill. It explains, “Only a ‘true threat’ is punishable under this section. A true threat is a statement that a speaker would reasonably foresee that a listener would reasonably interpret as a serious expression of a purpose to inflict harm, as distinguished from hyperbole, jest, innocuous talk, expressions of political views, or other similarly protected speech. It is not necessary that the speaker have the ability to carry out the threat. Jury instructions must contain a clear definition of a true threat.”