Two men in Kenosha were charged by Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley’s office for very similar conduct. The treatment the DA gave the two men were miles apart. Judge Bruce Schroeder stopped short of calling the differences “political,” but was certainly implying that very possibility.
State vs. Robert Carver
On June 2, 2020 a Kenosha County man called Robert Carver (78) allegedly got into an argument outside the Menards store in Kenosha. Police and witnesses say Carver said some racial epithets to a black woman for not putting her cart in the correct spot. Video evidence showed that Carver drove his Hummer towards the lady as she continued to scream and shout, hitting the brakes many feet from her. Kenosha Police were called and they responded. They issued Carver two citations, one for reckless driving and the other for disorderly conduct. Neither were criminal. Video of this event taken by a bystander began to circulate on social media. Mike Graveley seized on this opportunity to intervene and score political points. He then threw out Kenosha Police’s case and charged Carver with two misdemeanors – negligent operation of a vehicle and disorderly conduct. He then turned the vehicle offense into a felony by adding the rare “hate crime” enhancers to both charges.
Carver had a bench trial, meaning a judge, not a jury would decide his guilt. After hearing evidence, Carver was found guilty of both counts. Today, Carver, now 80, faced the Judge again for his sentence. DA Mike Graveley unbelievably asked the judge to imprison the 80-year-old who has health problems and absolutely no prior criminal history. Graveley said incarceration was needed to deter hateful comments. Thirty-four supporters of Carver packed half of the court room, something that both Graveley and Schroeder mentioned. The victim in this case made allegations that she almost died and Carver had a history of racism, which Schroeder rebuked. He said that it was clear from the video that Carver did not intend to hurt her, but only scare her. Plus, he said, Graveley didn’t charge Carver with trying to hurt the woman. Schroeder also pointed out that her allegations of a life-time of racism wasn’t supported by any evidence. “Terms like racist are thrown around today so easily,” said Schroeder.
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections rated Carver at the lowest possible level for possibility of recidivism and violence. Schroeder pointed this out and criticized Graveley’s prison recommendation. “People that use guns and knives in Kenosha County are recommended for probation by the DA,” Schroeder told the packed court room including one regional news camera. Carver received a $10,000 fine and two years of probation.
State vs. Zachary Sanders
Schroeder made a rare decision today in court. He brought up another case on his docket. Because he did so, that requires him to recuse himself and let another judge decide that case. (See citation, below.) He spoke about this case to contrast how differently Graveley’s office handles cases with similar circumstances.
On September 12, 2020, only three months after the Carver incident, a man called Zachary Sanders was arrested. Sanders was arguing with a neighbor and police heard him shouting “I hate fucking [n-words] , fuck you, and fuck black lives matter, I don’t give a fuck!” He later yelled “fuck you whore” and “fuck you black whore” at the man’s wife. The victim in this case claims that Sanders banged on his door earlier and broke his property. Graveley’s office charged Sanders with disorderly conduct and didn’t add the “hate crime” enhancer as was done with Carver. The Judge said that Sanders was recently released from prison for a gang/gun crime and had 13 prior convictions. What did the DA’s office offer Sanders? They offered to plead the crime down to a non-criminal citation. Schroeder denied this plea deal. “The Supreme Court tells us we should rarely deny pleas, but we still have the authority to do so,” said Schroeder. “Why didn’t the DA charge Sanders with a ‘hate crime’ ?” asked Schroeder rhetorically. Schroeder seemed very irked to see two defendants with very different charges for similar conduct. The man with no criminal record – Graveley wanted prison. The man with 13 priors – Graveley wanted a non-criminal citation.
Kenosha County Residents are starting to see more clearly that Graveley is very much a politician. Politics play a role in most of his charging decisions, like with Rittenhouse, a case that he charged knowing it was unwinnable. If the video of Carver wasn’t on social media, if the public wasn’t involved, Graveley would not have intervened, just like he didn’t in the Sanders case. Prosecutors should be making decisions based on the law and sound logic, not politics and emotions.
For the case requiring judicial recusal, see: