If what is being alleged in two criminal complaints, filed on March 20, 2023, is true, a husband and wife may go to prison for the rest of their lives. The 30 pages in the criminal complaints detail allegations that are as bad as they get. For now, however, Kenosha District Attorney Michael Graveley (D) wants to keep them out of jail, and won’t say why. James (Jay) Kerner (45) and his wife, Tiana Kerner (41), both of Mt. Pleasant, WI, are facing 86 and 189 years in prison respectively. Instead of asking a judge for arrest warrants, however, Graveley trusts that the two will go to court and not endanger anyone else. He issued the two Summons and Complaints. Jay Kerner, until he was recently fired, was the director of emergency management for Racine County. He was a high-ranking employee with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections before that.
According to the criminal complaints, on October 13, 2022, a scared 13-year-old little girl told her friend’s Mom that over the last three years, she had been physically and sexually abused by her 41-year old stepmother, Tiana. She told her friend that she didn’t want to go home. She had visible bruises. She detailed physical abuse including being beaten with a hammer and wooden pole, being strangled to the point of losing consciousness, and being waterboarded. She also said Tiana would have her 16-year-old brother punch her in the face. She also said that Tiana made her and her brother commit incest as a way to dissuade them from reporting the abuse.
A female officer arrived at the friend’s house and witnessed numerous bruises all over the little girl’s body. Police made contact with James, and he denied any abuse.
The 13-year-old went to a Child Advocacy Center to be interviewed by child interview specialists. She spoke about being hit in the neck with a pole so hard that everything went black. She was beaten with a hammer on her foot. She was forced to eat canned tuna, canned vegetables, spicy ramen noodles and cold Spaghetti O’s as punishment. She described being water-boarded in the shower by Tiana as well. She then went on to explain how Tiana would strangle her until she blacked out. Tiana would then make fun of her becuase she would “twitch” when blacking out. She would describe losing consciousness, awaking, and seeing stars. Tiana made her and her brother “make out” and later made the two touch each other’s genitals. Tiana also held a lighter under the 13-year-old’s genitals and the 16-year-old’s genitals.
Police recovered cell phone evidence and video evidence that corroborated many of the allegations. A search warrant conducted of the home also corroborated many of the allegations.
There are instances of direct abuse from Jay Kerner as well, although not as much as Tiana. He is likely charged for allowing this to occur in his presence.
Since there was a conflict of interest in this case, the Pleasant Prairie Police Department handled the second half of the investigation. The Racine DA, Patricia Hanson (D), also recused herself and asked Kenosha County DA Mike Graveley (D) to handle the charging on this case. Graveley appointed Assistant District Attorney Emily Gaertner (D) as special prosecutor.
The duo could have asked a court commissioner for a warrant and had the two arrested, but Graveley instead issued them notice to appear in court and didn’t believe they belong in jail. They are both scheduled to appear in Racine County Circuit Court on April 26, 2023, at 2:00 pm. They will appear in front of Commissioner Alice Rudebusch (D) who is known for giving low cash bails or cash-less bails.
We made contact with Graveley many times, and he refused comment. One of the last times Graveley made such a terrible decision, a man lost his life.