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Kenosha Nurse To File Defamation Suit Against Kenosha DA’s Office For Writing Email That Got Her Fired

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Kenosha Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Smathers (33) of Cedar Grove, WI
(Photo by Kevin Mathewson, Kenosha County Eye)

Kenosha Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Smathers had only been a prosecutor in Kenosha for nine months when she wrote a scathing email on May 9, 2022. This email went to an administrator at Aurora Health Care and was sent to complain about a sexual assault nurse who testifies often in court for the State. We will call her Betty. She begins the letter with “I should note that I have not personally worked with [Betty].” She then makes a series of very serious accusations about Betty. She started by questioning her nursing license, saying “First, it is my understanding she was not a registered nurse when she began her career as a SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) and was not a registered nurse for some time. This obviously caused credibility concerns at trial.” She then went on to document cases in which Smathers says that Betty gave bad information in court that resulted in a person being found not guilty. Smathers also complained to Aurora that Betty claimed to be a Facebook friend with a member of the DA’s office, but “she was not.” She then accused Betty of violating a patient’s HIPPA rights during a case which led to a mistrial. Finally, Smathers complained about Betty wearing clothing to court that was too tight and wearing too much makeup.

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She then ends the letter by saying that other employees of the DA’s office could corroborate her statements – ADA’s T. Clair Binger and James Kraus, the two prosecutors who were nationally embarrassed trying Kyle Rittenhouse and failing.

Aurora Fired Betty, who was the Forensic Program Nursing Supervisor at the time, two weeks after they received this email. She earned about $106,000 and had been with Aurora for almost eight years.

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Betty’s Lawyer Responds

Betty hired a lawyer and he served notice on the DA’s office that Betty intends to sue them and seek a quarter of a million dollars plus punitive damages. In the letter, the attorney says that his client Betty “categorically denies the statements made in the May 9, 2022 email. Smather’s email was made with no firsthand knowledge of my client…..Ms. Smathers acknowledges as much in the first paragraph of her email… It is deeply disturbing that a public official would write such an email without any knowledge or investigation of the facts.” He says the statement about Betty “not being a nurse” and “not being a SANE nurse” are “patently false and can be confirmed by a thirty second search on the website for the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.” It took this author about 45 seconds to verify that Betty has been a licensed nurse since 3/8/2006 and her license needs to be renewed by 2/29/2024. Betty’s lawyer also denied the she violated HIPPA and said that the defendant that Smathers said was found “not guilty” was actually convicted and also easily verifiable on the Wisconsin Court Website (CCAP). “Given the nature of [Betty’s] employment and profession, allegations regarding her nursing credentials or concerning patient confidentiality were considered extremely serious by her employer. Ms. Smathers should know the weight and seriousness of such allegations. To author an email to [Betty’s] employer without exercising basic fact checking or without having any firsthand interaction with [Betty] is incredibly unprofessional and reckless. ADA Smathers should know better.” He also called the complaint about the clothing and makeup “petty” saying that she has never received any complaints in her 16-year career.

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He ends the letter with:

“As a licensed attorney and representative of the County of Kenosha, the District Attorney’s office, Ms. Smathers should be fully aware of the need to investigate any and all claims and present a tempered, level-headed analysis of any situation. More than others, attorneys placed in the public’s trust, such as Ms. Smathers, should know of the ramifications of their actions. When Ms. Smathers wrote her email, she wrote an email not just on behalf of herself, but as an agent of the Kenosha District Attorney’s Office and government employee. Her words were given great effect by [Betty’s] employer – understandably so. And her untrue statements have now greatly harmed [Betty] who has been involuntarily separated from her employment. She has placed [Betty’s] career in jeopardy. As a result of Ms. Smather’s actions, Betty has legal causes of action for defamation, section 1983 deprivation of rights, tortious interference with contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy.”

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KCE reached out to Advocate Aurora and spoke with Cheri Mantz, Regional Communications Manager, and she provided KCE with the following statement:

“Forensic nurses provide invaluable services to survivors of sexual assault and are held to the highest standards of professional conduct. When there are allegations of misconduct, we initiate a thorough internal review and take action as appropriate. Out of respect for privacy, we do not comment on personnel matters.”

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KCE also reached out to Smathers, who ignored our communication. Smathers became a lawyer in 2013 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She worked briefly as a prosecutor for Columbia County, WI and then for the Sheboygan County DA’s office for almost eight years where she was promoted to Deputy DA in 2020 but then was demoted in 2021 according to her Linkedin. She was then hired by DA Michael Graveley in August of 2021. T. Clair and Kraus also didn’t return our communications. DA Mike Graveley was not available to talk this week but we will follow up with him at a later date.

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21 Responses

  1. Obviously cases should be tried in court and not in the media but these allegations, for the most part, seem bizarre. One of the parts that does not make sense is about whether she was a registered nurse when she began as a SANE (a highly intensive training program). What was she then if not a registered nurse? The claim about “not a registered nurse for some time” seems ambiguous. Was that when she began as a SANE or at some point thereafter? A license could lapse for nonpayment of fees or failure to comply with continuing education but would be reinstated upon proof of compliance (some lawyers have been negligent in this respect). While much of this seems bizarre Aurora’s actions also seem bizarre. Would you can someone on the basis of one E-mail without an investigation and verification. KCE seems to blast the prosecutor but goes soft on Aurora. Obviously Aurora is not going to publicly comment but if the prosecutor’s complaints were bogus then Aurora, too, could be on the hook. You’d think that they would do more than rely on one complaint without doing their own internal investigation. Maybe they did do one and found a reason to terminate employment. In any event, this is all speculative and especially so because a suit apparently has not been filed but only threatened. What is the rest of the story?

    1. Good points here. I am under the understanding that in Wisconsin, most employees in the private sector are “at will.” So if they did not fire her for being in a protected class then I don’t think she has any legal recourse against Aurora. It would seem like Aurora wants to appease the government. The document was a notice of claim which is generally a precursor to a civil suit and is actually required under statute before you can legally sue the government

      1. I wondered if she was at will or a contract employee as a supervisor. They have the job posted now but it’s unclear. Whatever weirdness may have come from the DA’s office seems compounded by Aurora. I kept thinking what if someone at Aurora wrote the same thing about the Asst. DA. Would she have been fired for that? Don’t think so.

      2. Most large employers have Employee/Employment Handbooks that contain sections on termination. For example, there might be warnings or write ups and a procedure before termination. Those are legally binding and employers can be sued for failing to follow those provisions. Aurora is way too big with lots of lawyers on their payroll… they probably followed their procedures after getting the email – that would explain why they are not the #1 target of the lawsuit.

        It will all come out during discovery – too bad we can’t see the depositions that will take place!! The real shame is the taxpayers will have to pay the bill for the attorney fees and settlement (no way can this go to trial – the punitive damages would be insane!).

        One final thought – what kind of an attorney puts defamatory statements in writing using their official work email?!? What an idiot.

        1. There’s no “#1 target” in this kind of action. All potential defendants must be included. The notice of claim (the accuracy of which itself could be subject to debate) implied that the ADA’s E-mail to Aurora got the nurse fired. If so, and the allegations were false, there would be a claim against both. There are some BIG “ifs” here. Obviously the E-mail’s claims need to be false AND the reason Aurora canned her. But what if that was not the reason she was fired? Maybe Aurora had something else going on or, even without that, what if they had determined that the nurse, regardless of whether the E-mail’s claims were false, had a fractured working relationship with the DA’s office that impaired her ability to do the job? Or there was some other issue? If she was an at will employee that might be enough to do it. There must be more to the story here or Aurora’s team of lawyers was also asleep at the switch. And some of the E-mail’s assertions are peculiar. But maybe the HIPAA matter was enough. Who knows? But if Aurora says false claims in the E-mail were not the cause of her firing the case is DOA.

          Agree that the E-mail was bush league. If there were concerns, at first you do your homework and then you get off your ass and go see the people you need to see. But the DA’s office seems to be in their own ivory tower insulated from the community.

  2. It is a very long daily commute from Cedar Grove to Kenosha.

    Staff at the DA’s office has a long history of writing deceptive letters and memos about matters in which they have no expertise and standing to write. There is a current Circuit Court case in Brown County involving, at its core, the malicious actions of DA Graveley. Graveley wrote a misleading and deceptive letter and put it into the record of a 2019 John Doe proceeding into the death of Michael Bell, a serious violation of ethics rules. The Kenosha News never reports on this case nor its significance. This link will take you to one of the briefs filed in this case that describes Graveley’s unethical actions in great detail.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cL3UjwCHkM3do5ZT4i-QJyu3o-21QIem/view?usp=sharing

    1. Even if we accept for argument there was impropriety in the Michael Bell investigation that statute of limitations for any relevant crime expired long ago. I may be wrong but didn’t Judge Schimel say that when he was AG?

      I find Mr. Bell, sr., to have his own credibility issues. He sued after his son’s death, which is his right, and then took the settlement money and has since run a nonstop smear campaign ostensibly seeking to litigate his beliefs that the police acted improperly. Missing from this is Mr. Bell’s own complicity in frustrating the truth surrounding his son’s death. Instead of taking the blood money he could have continued his suit and then the case would have had a thorough, public airing and, also, the officers would have had the chance to defend themselves. Mr. Bell and Mr. Bell alone stopped that process so he has nobody to blame but himself.

      1. Officers have a duty to tell the truth when they use deadly force. Their accounts conflict with the mountain of forensic evidence that has been uncovered since the two day investigation that cleared them.

        It is Bell’s, and many peoples’, well-reasoned opinion that there has been and continues to be an intentional concealment of the truth about this case at the highest levels of Kenosha Government, including DA Graveley. In other words, a cover-up.

        I would welcome attorneys to chime in, but in many cases of an intentional conspiracy to cover up a crime, the statute of limitations does not start until the cover-up is exposed. The local governments have never come clean.

        This is the September 27, 2017 letter that Graveley sent to Mr. Bell about his son’s case. Please note the paragraph that starts on the bottom of page 1 and ends at the top of page 2. Graveley writes a misleading and deceptive opinion on touch DNA. He then submitted this letter into the record of a 2019 John Doe proceeding into the Bell death. This letter helped convince the judge to dump the case.

        https://drive.google.com/open?id=18n3TPxJcQ74mmJEHv98UjDxA4HOGvqpH

        This letter is now the subject of a ethics complaint against Graveley that was filed with the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation, which is now the subject of the court action in Brown County Circuit Court.

        Dr. Karl Reich, a renowned forensic DNA expert, was retained to evaluate Graveley’s claims on touch DNA in aforementioned letter. You can read Dr. Reich’s affidavit and CV here: This is also an appendix in the Brown County action.

        https://drive.google.com/file/d/1_rywAkU8tCGkwOVc58mdTJyf22hkamCY/view?usp=sharing

        The bottom line is there are big problems with how the Bell case was handled. Maybe Mr. Bell could have handled things better. However, there is no guide book on what to do when your son is killed by the police and the police lie about the true circumstances of the death. Would you be Ok with it if it was someone you love?

  3. I would question Aurora’s actions more than the idiots in the District Attorney’s office, based only on what I’ve read here. I guess that’s why we have trials, so that the only facts that come out are attached to testimony from sworn witnesses.

    1. I would, too. So the E-mail begins with the prosecutor saying that she has no personal working relationship with the SANE which leads into some inaccurate allegations and upon that Aurora fires the nurse??? If that’s the way Aurora does things maybe we should question whether to get medical care from such a slipshod operation! Granted that the prosecutor seems off-base but man, WTF with Aurora? Either they’re off-base here or there’s some slippery attorney making a false claim.

  4. Clothes too tight
    Wore too much makeup
    This sounds like female jelousy at an 8th grade level
    I suspect this nurse is hot, while Smathers is not…

  5. A long time ago, a coworker pointed out to me certain realities in the work place. The one that really stood out was ‘the boss never wants to hire anyone smarter than himself’. It seems like embattled and bungling DA Mike Gravely is doing exactly this. By firing off a defamatory email, Smathers demonstrated her unprofessional judgement and conduct as well as a lack of concern for the consequences of her actions. I’d say ‘Conduct unbecoming of a Public Official’. It seems our Civil Servants picture themselves as Civil Masters! So did Graveley intentionally scrape the bottom of the barrel when he hired Smathers? Looking a little deeper, another question pops up, did Jambois or Zapf, whichever, hire Graveley for the same reason?
    Aurora’s firing of ‘Betty’ is equally unjust and I hope Betty’s attorney is one that issue also.

  6. Would bet she was demoted in Sheboygan because she isn’t really that tough on crimes done by certain individuals……which obviously are the type of prosecutors that Kenosha wants.

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