18-year-old arrested outside East Towne Mall will not face charg - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

18-year-old arrested outside East Towne Mall will not face charges, instead restorative justice program

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says a teenager who acted threateningly at East Towne Mall and resisted arrest will go into a community diversion program and will face no criminal charges.

18-year old old Genele Laird's arrest Tuesday outside the mall was videotaped by a bystander, and the video went viral, as one of the arresting officers punched the teen and used a taser on her as she resisted.  The actions of arresting officers from the Madison Police Department are being reviewed by the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

At a news conference Friday, Ozanne said Laird will enter the Dane County Community Restorative Justice Court, where community members, victims and the offenders work together to accomplish atonement for misdeeds. Ozanne says people with felony-level accusations against them are ineligible for the diversion program, but says an exception was made for Laird, who met the criteria of having no previous, criminal record.  

Ozanne says Laird was accepted only after consultation, with the victims, including the arresting police officers.

He says before the videotaped arrest, Laird had used a knife to threat a fast food restaurant worker in the mall;  had attempted to leave the mall after contact with an officer, who told her to remain; and spit on officers, and used her nails to scratch their skin.

Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says the consideration of approving Laird's placement in the program included whether it would send a message aggression against police would be taken lightly.  Ozanne says if Laird fails to successfully complete the requirements of the diversion court, she will be charged with three felony crimes, including battery to a police officer, and misdemeanor crimes.

Koval says the arresting officers' motivation for consenting to Laird's entry into the community court was to see a successful outcome to the situation.

"It was not owing to a video that goes viral,"  Koval says.  "That's not what prompted their crusade, had nothing to do with it."

"The officer needs to be fired immediately," community activist M Adams of Freedom Inc. says of the officer who used force and the taser on the teen.  "The officer should be prosecuted.  That was an excessive use of force, unwarranted."  Adams says Laird may have agreed to accept responsibility for causing the incident and prompting arrest, and entered the program, as the only avenue to release from jail after more than two days in custody.A

Laird, her sister Deirdre Thomson, and her attorney Syovata Edari have yet to respond to requests for comment from 27 News.

Community leaders of color in the coalition Focus Interruption tell 27 News they worked with Ozanne and Koval to urge an outcome for Laird without criminal charges being involved.  Coalition member Frank Davis says given Laird's treatment by the arresting officers, the diversion court was the only option.  "It was necessary...with the officers' actions being so egregious,"  Davis says.
 

Wisconsin Professional Police Officers Association President Jim Palmer says the officers' actions were consistent with training and standards used by departments nationwide, and were appropriate.

Shiva Bidar-Sielaff was one of nearly a dozen city council members Thursday to issue a statement of concern over the officers' tactics.  She says she applauds the community restorative justice court outcome, welcomes an upcoming study of Madison Police Department practices and policies, and hopes suspicions between communities of color and police can be addressed in the wake of concern over the videotaped arrest. 

"Just seeing the video is a disturbing moment and is the result of the context of deep issues of trust,"  Bidar-Sielaff says.

Authorities have yet to identify the two officers involved in Laird's arrest, citing threats against them.  Ozanne says such threats would not be tolerated, and would be met by action.

Dane County District Attorney Office special prosecutor Barb Franks specializes in cases involving juveniles and community issues.  She calls for everyone with a stake in improving Madison's community relationships to avoid deepening wedges between groups, and instead look for answers.

"It's going to take a willingness on both sides to resist standing proudly in our own indignation,"  Franks says.


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MADISON (WKOW) --- Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne says that Genele Laird will not face charges if she completes the restorative court program.  Ozanne says he has a criminal complaint ready to charge her, 3 of those charges are felonies, if she does not complete the process.

Laird is eligible for the program because of her age and her clean record.  Ozanne did say she is not eligible for the program because of the felony charges, but he made the exception in this case after conversations with police and officials.

The live stream is up right now on www.wkow.com/live and we will update when it is over.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne and Madison Police Chief Mike Koval are holding a joint news conference Friday afternoon to talk about the controversial arrest of an 18-year-old woman by Madison police officers Tuesday night at East Towne Mall.

The Wisconsin State Journal spoke with the lawyer for the arrested woman, Genele Laird. The newspaper reports attorney Syovata Edari says it is her understanding Laird will not face any charges. 27 news has made multiple attempts to contact Edari but has been unsuccessful, so far.

Laird was released from the Dane County Thursday evening, roughly two days after her arrest outside the mall.

Many local politicians and community leaders have questioned the police tactics used to subdue Laird after a video recording of the arrest went viral. The video shows two officers trying to arrest Laird as she resists. One officer is seen kicking Laird's leg to try and get her to the ground, then kneeing and punching her in the side as they tried to get her arms behind her back. The same officer then used a taser-style weapon.

Police Chief Mike Koval, in a Wednesday news conference, maintained the video clip doesn't tell the entire story. He says Laird reportedly threatened someone in the food court of the mall and showed a knife. He also says she scratched, kicked and spat on the arresting officers.

The news conference is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and you can watch it live here.

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