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WI: Decisions await in assault cases involving politics

By   /   December 4, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Still no charges in two reported assault cases with political implications several weeks after the high-profile incidents went public.

Police say the case of Kyle Wood, the openly gay Republican campaign volunteer who in late October recanted his story that he was beaten up because of his political affiliation and sexual orientation, is in the hands of Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, awaiting a formal decision on charges.

KYLE WOOD: Wood, who recanted his story to police that he was attacked, sent this photo to media claiming it was taken after the alleged assault.

Madison Police Capt. Joe Balles on Tuesday told Wisconsin Reporter that his detective early on had an informal meeting with the district attorney about the case, but the department hasn’t made a formal referral.

In late October, less than a week after Wood recanted to police his claims that an unknown attacker brutally beat him at his High Street home, police cleared the case as “Unfounded” and said Wood’s case file would be reviewed with the district attorney’s office. At the time, police said Wood could face obstruction charges or charges of filing a false police report.

“We’re dealing with parts of the law, a type of case we don’t deal with every day. That’s why we’re dealing with it a little more sensitively,” Balles told Wisconsin Reporter on Tuesday. He said the D.A.’s office is doing a “comprehensive review” of the matter, and will ultimately decide, given limited prosecutorial resources, whether it is worth the time and effort to pursue charges.

The D.A.’s office has been preoccupied with an investigation into an officer-involved shooting over the past month, Balles said in defense of the delay.

Ozanne has not returned several calls from Wisconsin Reporter in recent weeks.

Asked if the police department would recommend charges, Balles said investigators could have arrested Wood at the time he recanted his battery story, charged him and “the whole clock would have started.”

“We thought the larger goal to accomplish was to basically get his story that he was perpetrating, get that known before the election,” the captain said of Wood’s recanted report.

Wood served as a full-time campaign volunteer for Republican Chad Lee, who was running against state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison for the 2nd District congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. Pocan easily defeated Lee in the November election.

Wood originally told conservative news outlet The Daily Caller that he was attacked on the morning of Oct. 24. Wood claimed an unknown man with a muscular build “wrapped a ligature around my neck, slammed my head into the doorway, and smashed my face into a mirror, telling me, ‘You should have kept your (expletive deleted) mouth shut.”

Wood’s story was featured in several news outlets, including Wisconsin Reporter,  Madison’s Capital Times and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In an interview with Wisconsin Reporter a few days before he recanted the story, Wood reiterated that he was the victim of a political attack, that he was beaten for his support of Lee and for his sexual orientation.

Just hours before police announced that Wood had recanted, conservative news organization Media Trackers reported that Wood had provided harassing text messages that Media Trackers claimed came from Pocan’s spouse. Those texts turned out to be bogus.

“Individuals who know Wood verified the accuracy of his claims to Media Trackers but those claims now appear to be false,” the organization reported on its site Monday evening.

Media Trackers called Wood’s conduct “despicable.”

Pocan’s campaign has said it is keeping “every option open on legal actions towards organizations and individuals that perpetrated this lie.”

Lee’s campaign said it immediately dismissed Wood and that it expected to fully cooperate with investigators.

Now that the election is past, Balles said, “Life goes one and we now need to look at what happens here.”

That could mean criminal charges, perhaps a deferred prosecution, possibly no charges for Wood, who does not have a criminal record, said Balles.

“The criminal justice system does not only punish but we provide structure and support to those going through difficult times in their life,” the captain said.

Elsewhere, Whitewater Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher told Wisconsin Reporter this week  police still are “working on a few things” in the alleged assault on Sean Kedzie.

Kedzie, the son of state Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn, in October told police he was attacked by two men who, Kedzie said, attempted to take his Romney-Ryan political sign.

Otterbacher said investigators met with Sean Kedzie last week, but the investigation is “kind of at a standstill.”

“Things haven’t worked out thus far with that person of interest,” the chief said. Sean Kedzie, according to his father, picked a suspect out of a photo lineup. Otterbacher declined to say if the individual was the person of interest.

She could not provide a timeline on when or if information on the case would be released to the public.

Contact M.D. Kittle at [email protected]

— Edited by John Trump at [email protected]


M.D. Kittle is bureau chief of Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment Reporter for Watchdog.org. Kittle is a 25-year veteran of print, broadcast and online media. He is the recipient of several awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, and others. He is also a member of Investigative Reporters & Editors. Kittle's extensive series on Wisconsin's unconstitutional John Doe investigations was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck's TheBlaze. His work has been featured in Town Hall, Fox News, NewsMax, and other national publications, and his reporting has been cited by news outlets nationwide. Kittle is a fill-in talk show host on the Jay Weber Show and the Vicki McKenna Show in Milwaukee and Madison.