Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate running for a seat in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, recently addressed criticisms of her crime sentencing record. Her conservative opponent, Daniel Kelly, has been focusing on the lenient sentences she has handed out to rapists and pedophiles during her time on the bench.
The Supreme Court race has become one of the most contentious races of 2023, as Protasiewicz’s win could change the court’s 4-3 conservative majority in the aftermath of longtime Judge Patience Roggensack’s retirement after 20 years. Democrats view this seat as a potential opportunity to reshap Wisconsin’s judicial system and state law, as various high-profile cases, such as abortion access, are pending in the Supreme Court.
Like many 2023 races, crime has been one of the primary topics of discussion. Critics of Protasiewicz cite various cases, including one in which she originally only sentenced Quantrell Bounds to five years and nine months for first-degree child sexual assault after he assaulted and raped a 13-year-old girl and posted the video on Facebook. She has been accused of being too lenient with criminals.
In response to the criticisms, Protasiewicz defended herself during a recent debate, calling the criticism “unfair.” She stated that she has sentenced thousands of people, and that only a handful of cases have been identified and misrepresented to paint her as weak on crime.
Kelly, who has been criticized by opponents for having “too extreme policies,” countered that the cases raise serious questions about Protasiewicz’s record on crime. He highlighted another case where she released a rapist of a 15-year-old girl, citing COVID-19 concerns. Protasiewicz denied his reason, stating that it was an “outright lie.”
The race for the Supreme Court will be held on April 4, and it is expected to be the most expensive state Supreme Court race in history. Total spending on the campaign has already reached $10.4 million, with Protasiewicz and Kelly both reporting nearly identical cash-on-hand balances as of Feb. 6, having raised more money than their competitors.
Crime continues to be a major focus of the race, with both candidates presenting themselves as the right choice to keep Wisconsin safe. The outcome of the race could have major implications for the future of Wisconsin’s law and order system.
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