MADISON (WKOW) -- In an unusual move, an assistant attorney general is prosecuting a civil case involving alleged disorderly conduct by a State Capitol protester, and there are indications the state Justice Department may become involved in other, similar prosecutions.
The defendant in the civil case, Jeremy Ryan, tells 27 News he believes the attorney general's involvement in the prosecution of his case represents a crackdown on protests by the Walker administration.
"To me, this looks like a political, legal hit job," Ryan said.
Since Governor Scott Walker introduced collective bargaining limits early last year, many protesters have been cited for non-criminal offenses, after allegedly refusing to leave the
Capitol, holding signs in prohibited areas, and for other conduct. Cases have been prosecuted by the Dane County District Attorney's Office and by Madison's city attorney, depending on the type of violation and arresting police agency.
District Attorney Ismael Ozanne tells 27 News while some cases his office has handled have been dismissed, others have resulted in successful prosecutions, with fines assessed.
But Ryan, a frequent Capitol protester who uses a segway because of a medical condition, says he's been cited more than 30 times in the past two years, and nearly all his citations have been dismissed.
In another case filed this month against Steven J. Books for alleged lawbreaking on the Capitol grounds, records show his initial court appearance will take place on a day when assistant Dane County district attorneys are typically unavailable for such civil matters.
Ryan says using an assistant attorney general to prosecute his case also involves more state funds.
In an email, Justice Department spokesperson Dana Brueck says the citation was referred to DOJ after being issued by state capitol police.
Ozanne says for the attorney general to prosecute what's called a civil forfeiture case, it requires request from the governor or the legislature.
Department of Administration Spokesperson Stephanie Marquis deferred questions to State Capitol Police Chief David Erwin about whether DOA directed the prosecution. When 27 News contacted Erwin, he deferred to deputy DOA secretary Chris Schoenherr, who has not responded to 27 News.
Ozanne says he will meet with Justice Department officials on the prosecution of civil violations at the State Capitol on Wednesday.
"When individuals or groups violate the law, they take away the rights of other citizens to use and enjoy the capitol," Brueck wrote.
Ryan says his July citation involved his presence in the gallery of the state senate chambers with a camera and a placard.
Rules reinforced by DOA officials earlier this year could be interpreted to brand gatherings of the long-standing, daily capitol protest sing-a-long as violations.
Brueck did not address whether justice department involvement has been requested for potential violation by the singers.