MADISON, Wis. — A conservative group on Tuesday accused Democratic Attorney General Susan Happ of letting an alleged child molester off easy because he bought her house a year before he was charged.
Happ has served as district attorney in Jefferson County since 2008. Media Trackers released a statement saying it had uncovered court and land purchase documents that show Daniel J. Reynolds entered into a three-year contract to purchase Happ and her husband's home for $180,000 in December 2009. The deal called for Reynolds to make $1,500 monthly payments and pay for the entire house by December 2012. Land records show the deed moved to Reynolds in May 2012.
In the fall of 2011 the Jefferson Police Department began investigating whether Reynolds had sexually assaulted a young girl. Court records indicate Happ's office opened a case on him sometime in 2012 and ended up charging him with two felony counts of sexual assault of a child in May 2013. This past March, Happ's office agreed to a deferred prosecution deal with Reynolds. The agreement allows him to avoid a conviction if he submits to monitoring and evaluations, according to Reynolds' defense attorney.
"This case raises questions about Susan Happ's commitment to protecting Wisconsin's most vulnerable," Brian Sikma, Media Trackers' communications director, said in the statement.
Happ's opponent in the Nov. 4 election is Brad Schimel, Waukesha County's Republican district attorney. A Marquette University Law School poll released last week shows Happ in the lead, with 40 percent of registered voters surveyed saying they support her compared with 33 percent backing Schimel. His campaign manager, Johnny Koremenos, accused Happ Tuesday of cutting a deal with a child molester with financial ties to her family.
"The more we know about Susan Happ, the worse it gets for her," Koremenos said in an email.
Happ's campaign manager, Josh Lease, said in an email that Happ did nothing wrong.
Monica Hall, an assistant district attorney in Happ's office, made all the decisions in the case, not Happ, he said. Hall decided to offer Reynolds a deferred prosecution in part because the alleged assaults didn't come to light for years, he said. According to the criminal complaint, the victim said the assaults took place between 2001 and 2005; a police report Media Trackers obtained suggests the girl's family first reported them in 2011.
"Despite the innuendos from the right-wing organization that dug this up, the record will show this case was handled appropriately," he said. "Anyone who is not hell-bent on assassinating Susan Happ's character will agree if they look at the facts of the case.
Hall didn't immediately return telephone and email messages from The Associated Press Tuesday afternoon.
Reynolds' defense attorney, Daniel Fay, called the conservatives' accusations "a pile of crap." He said Happ's financial relationship with Reynolds was fully disclosed and agreed that Hall made the decisions in the case. The state's case weakened as it went along, he said, because it became apparent the victim's story was inconsistent.
He said he's worked with both Happ and Schimel for years and both are tough, fair prosecutors.
"This is just gotcha stuff," Fay said. "If my daughter was the victim of a crime, I'd want either one of these people to be the prosecutor.