Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett will not file charges in a June 13 altercation in which conservative Justice David Prosser was alleged to have put a stranglehold on liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley as the court deliberated a controversial collective bargaining law.
Barrett, the special prosecutor in the case, wrote Dane County Chief Judge William Foust on Thursday morning informing him of her decision.
"I was confident the truth would come out — and it did," Prosser said in a prepared statement. "I am gratified the prosecutor found these scurrilous charges were without merit."
Bradley, in a statement, said: "I well understand the difficulty of gaining any criminal conviction. The prosecution's burden of proof is very heavy, as it should be."
She said she never sought criminal prosecution.
"My focus from the outset has not been one of criminal prosecution, but rather addressing workplace safety," she said. "I contacted law enforcement the very night the incident happened but did not request criminal prosecution. Rather, I sought law enforcement's assistance to try to have the entire court address informally this workplace safety issue that has progressed over the years. To that end, (Capitol) Chief of Police (Charles) Tubbs promptly met with the entire court, but the efforts to address workplace safety concerns were rebuffed."
Barrett's decision — arrived at after reviewing 70 pages of police reports compiled by Dane County sheriff's investigators, as well as other documents, photos and an audio disc of an interview with Prosser — puts to rest the possibility of criminal chages after Bradley said that Prosser put his hands on her throat during a heated exchange in Bradley's chambers.
Some sources claimed that Bradley was the aggressor and came at Prosser with raised fists.
The state Judicial Commission, which oversees the state's judicial ethics code, is also investigating the incident.
In his statement, Prosser chided Bradley for making "the decision to sensationalize" the incident.
Bradley said she plans to press on with "efforts to seek the cooperation of my colleagues on the court to resolve this progressive workplace safety issue."
"I remain committed to the goal that we can achieve the safe workplace that all employees — private and public — are entitled to have under the law," she said.
Barrett, a Republican, was named special prosecutor by Foust to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interests in the case. Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, had filed a complaint to block implementation of the collective bargaining law because he said a legislative hearing leading to its passage violated state open meetings laws.
Prosser, a former Republican state Assembly speaker who narrowly won re-election this spring over liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, was portrayed during the campaign as a "rubber stamp" for Gov. Scott Walker, who proposed the collective bargaining law, which strips public employees of most bargaining rights, bans public worker unions from extracting dues from employee paychecks and forces public worker unions to recertify annually. In a 4-3 ruling, the sharply divided court OK'd implementation of the law.