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Happ’s disturbing conflict of interest

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Waukesha Freeman September 4, 2014 Page a5 Opinion
 

Happ’s disturbing conflict of interest

Sex assault suspect had land contract with DA Happ

It’s hard to remember that Susan Happ got the Democratic nomination for state attorney general because she was the most electable candidate. The Jefferson County district attorney was able to boast prosecutorial experience, which Democratic state Rep. Jon Richards could not.

John Nichols, writing in the Capital Times, said Happ winning the nomination was a case of primary voters thinking strategically rather than merely voting for the most liberal candidate. The Democratic voters’ game of Stratego may have just hit a bomb.

A report by the conservative organization Media Trackers, which has since been reported elsewhere, tells how Happ’s office delayed and then reduced the charges against a man accused of sexual assault of a minor. While the case was being handled by Happ’s office, the man in question also had a business relationship with Happ and her husband.

In 2009, after unsuccessful attempts to sell their home, Happ and her husband entered into a land contract agreement with Daniel Reynolds. Reynolds would make payments totaling $180,000 to the Happs between December 2009 and December 2012.

In October 2011, during the time of the land contract, Reynolds was accused of sexual assault of a minor. The Jefferson police investigated and a police report was made.

Despite the obvious conflict of interest, Happ’s office did not refer the investigation to a special prosecutor. Even though Happ and her husband had a vested personal interest in continuing to receive payments of $1,050 per month, she did not refer the matter to another district attorney’s office. Charges were finally brought against Reynolds in 2013 by one of Happ’s direct reports after the land deal was completed. Even then, Reynolds was given a deferred prosecution deal and the charges of sexual assault of a minor were reduced to disorderly conduct.

Happ’s defense is that even though her office handled the case, she personally had nothing to do with it. It was the same excuse Happ gave when former state Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski was given a break by her office after he was arrested for drunk driving.

The Reynolds case is a troubling case, even more troubling than the Zielinski case. In the Zielinski case, there was only the appearance that her office did a political favor.

In the Reynolds case, there is the appearance that Happ’s office allegedly acted in her financial best interests. Obviously it would have been more difficult for Reynolds to continue his monthly payments had he been charged earlier with the sexual assault of a minor.

Given the direct financial tie between the accused and Happ, and Happ’s direct financial interest in the case, there should have been no question of bringing in a special prosecutor.

Also disturbing is how the case is starting to form a pattern of Happ’s softness when it comes to protecting children from sexual predators.

When Happ was a defense attorney, she defended a child molester who sexually assaulted children at his wife’s in-home day care. As unsavory as that case was, it was Happ’s plea for leniency for her client that is really disturbing.

Happ wrote to the judge that because the children were in the couple’s home, and not in a park, her client should not have been considered a sexual predator: “This is not a person whom society normally would classify as a sexual predator who is stalking children at malls or at parks. And I would ask the Court to consider that in ascertaining the gravity of the offense.”

The mind recoils at the thought that, because he betrayed the trust of the parents who brought the children to their day care by forcing the children to do terrible sex acts, Happ would not consider her client a sexual predator.

Given her history, it’s not surprising that her opponent Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel has been able to line up bipartisan support for his candidacy.

What is surprising is how little scrutiny Happ received before the Democratic primary. As the voters get to know her better, Happ is looking less like a candidate for statewide office and more like an office holder needing to be recalled.

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