On March 22, 2022 at 8:33pm in Pleasant Prairie, police found a running car in the middle of an intersection with a man slumped over the steering wheel. Several officers tried to get his attention, but he was overdosing. Police shattered the window and pulled him out. Police saved Cardinali’s life by administering Narcan. Once revived, Cardinali became combative with police. Cardinali told the police that he snorted Fentanyl. Police found many pills in the car. He was charged with Operating While Intoxicated and Possession of Narcotic Drugs, a felony. DA Michael Graveley was a strong supporter of Cardinali when he was an elected Somers Trustee and vying for a seat he would be granted on the Kenosha County Board. For this reason, he had to recuse himself and let the Walworth County DA handle this case. Yesterday, the Walworth DA gave Cardinali a sweet plea deal, dismissing the felony. He pled guilty to three misdemeanors. He can still own a gun and hold public office. His OWI case status is unknown – it is being handled by the Racine Municipal Court.
Cardinali wrote a letter to Judge Angelina Gabriele, who approved the plea deal, asking her to recuse herself – saying she couldn’t be fair and impartial because he worked on her opponent’s campaign. He apparently forgot about this letter yesterday and waived any potential conflict. Judges in Kenosha usually approve pleas for judicial efficiency.
This isn’t the first time the Walworth DA gave Cardinali a big break. On March 25, 2022, Cardinali was arrested for blocking access to the entrance to the Police building and refused to move when ordered by police. The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department asked the Walworth DA to charge him with criminal Disorderly Conduct. They didn’t. They gave him a citation instead. This is further evidence that when our DA sends cases elsewhere, they aren’t treated seriously. We contacted Walworth DA Zeke Wiedenfeld and their Deputy DA James Sempf and we didn’t hear back.
Joe Cardinali was only 18 when he was elected to the Somers Town Board in 2015. The Town of Somers later became a Village after incorporation. Cardinali ran for the Village Board in 2016 and took first place out of four candidates. There was some questionable behavior from Cardinali during his time on the Somers board. In 2018, the death of a County Board Member sparked Cardinali to seek appointment to the board. In this process, the Chairman takes applications, interviews the candidates, and then makes a recommendation to the board of who he/she wants appointed. In this case, the Chairman was Daniel Esposito who would later be arrested for felony retail theft. Many candidates emerged, but Esposito wanted Cardinali. It seemed obvious. Cardinali had dozens of letters from prominent democrats recommending him for the post. The Chairman and most of the board were democrats. Because of his past behavior, many spoke against his appointment and five of the board members voted against it. Here are some of the prominent officials who endorsed him:
Sheriff Deputy Ray Rowe (D)
Kenosha County Board Member John Franco (D)
County Board Member Andy Berg (D)
Somers Village President George Stoner (D)
County Treasurer Teri Jacobson (D)
Former County Clerk Mary Kubicki (D)
Register of Deeds JoEllyn Storz (D)
State Senator Robert Wirch (D)
State Rep Tod Ohnstad (D)
Somers Trustee Gregg Sinnen (D)
Somers Municipal Judge Robert Kupfer (D)
Former County Executive John Collins (D)
Former Kenosha Mayor John Bilotti (D)
Paris Town Chairman Virgil Gentz (D)
Former County Board Member Mark Modory (D)
Alderman Holly Kangas (D)
Alderman Pat Juliana (D)
Alderman Daniel Prozanski (D)
Alderman Jan Michalski (D)
Former County Board Member Rick Dodge (D)
Former KUSD Board Member Mike Falkofske (D)
KUSD Board Member Mary Modder (D)
Somers Fire Chief Carson Wilkerson (D)
Somers Fire Captain Rob Hamm (D)
Kenosha County Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Jonker (Former) (D)
Kenosha County Democratic Party Chairwoman Lori Hawkins (D)
Just after his appointment, Cardinali had a woman petition for a restraining order. There were three in total who would file retraining orders against Cardinali.