A short melee erupted minutes after Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Gerad Dougvillo refused to let a man out on a no-cash bail Friday morning. The Sheriff’s Department had extra deputies in the area as about 40 people came to the bail modification hearing at 9:00 am on Friday.
Dennis Melowski, the lawyer for a Pleasant Prairie man named Ajay Pierangeli, appeared in person Friday, while his client appears via zoom. Melowski has asked a Kenosha Circuit Court Judge to reduce his client’s bail to the tune of one half million dollars – from $500,000 to $0. The Kenosha County DA’s office charged Ajay Pierangeli with two counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, class D felonies, Injury by Intoxicated Use of Vehicle and OWI Causing Injury (2nd). If convicted of all counts, Pierangeli faces a maximum sentence of just over 68 years in the Wisconsin State Prison System – Almost 100 years.
The charges stemmed from a July 28, 2023 crash that took two lives and severely injured three others. At approximately 3:05 am, a 2008 Red Dodge Dakota occupied by five people crashed into Play It Again Sports located at 4017 75th St in Kenosha. The driver was identified as Pierangeli (formerly Fierke). According to the report, obtained by KCE from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, and the criminal complaint, police allege Pierangeli was intoxicated and that speed also caused him to lose control of the truck. Pierangeli’s blood alcohol level was more than three and a half times the legal limit at .282 BAC. Two occupants of a private ambulance witnessed the crash and estimated the speed to be about 70 mph in a 30mph zone. They also saw the vehicle swerving and occupants of the vehicle “blowing kisses” out of the window before the crash. They noted the truck went airborne.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner William Michel II signed Pierangeli’s arrest warrant and placed the cash value at $500,000. Defense counsel asked for a lower bail amount, but Michel declined, citing the seriousness of the allegations.
On September 20, 2023, Melowski asked Circuit Court Judge Gerad Dougvillo to give Pierangeli a no-cash bail. The arguments might sound strange to some. Melowski lists the number of family members of Pierangeli that live in the area. He also says that Pierangeli has many friends in the area. He also, strangely, even named one of Pierangeli’s aunts, who has a prominent last name in Kenosha. Melowski also says “Mr. Pierangeli will not try to ‘pull the wool over’ the Court’s eyes to imply that he attends church weekly-as he does not-however, neither does he completely abstain from a spiritual life.” Melowski also says that the establishment where Pierangeli was employed will “immediately take Pierangeli back to work if he is released.” Melowski classifies this fact as something that “speaks volumes about Mr. Pierangeli’s character.” However, KCE spoke to the owner of the business who said “I was never contacted by [the] attorney…. I was in law enforcement for over 30 years my heart goes out to families of the victims and of AJ’s. It is a horrible situation.”
Melowski also cites to Pierangeli’s injuries he allegedly caused to himself as a reason why he must immediately be released from jail. This argument, however seemed to be debunked immediately. Prosecutor Zach Brost gave Melowski a photo of Pierangeli doing push ups in the jail while still in the medical wing of the jail. He was also doing planks. Melowski snapped at Brost, saying “Is [releasing photos of inmates] the standard practice of the Sheriff’s Department?” To which Brost responded, “Well, it shows that your client isn’t in as bad a shape as you say he is.” This short dialogue started off the record before court was in session. Melowski also alleges, without citing any evidence that the victims’ families are not seeking severe punishment. This was also debunked Friday morning.
Melowski started the hearing by saying that the cash bond “should be modified” to a no-cash bail, meaning that Pierangeli would be released without having to pay any bail. He said that the $500,000 bail set by Commissioner Michel was the highest he’s seen in his career for “a case like this” for someone with ties to the community and no criminal record. “I believe that a cash bail of this amount is not appropriate,” said Melowski.
Judge Dougvillo also seemed to take Melowski to task by inquiring if he received permission to share a letter with the court authored by one of the surviving victim’s mother, asking “In your motion, you reference and also attached a letter from ***** *********, who is, I believe one of the parents of one of the victims. Did you follow up to see if you were given permission or blessing to use that in a bond modification argument?” asked Judge Dougvillo. “I did not, your honor, but it’s my understanding that the victims are in support of this bond modification,” responded Melowski. Melowski’s statement would turn out to be untrue.
Only one victim, a surviving victim named Quincy Adams asked for the bail to be lowered saying “What happened to us that night…. could happen to anyone in this courtroom today….everyone played a part in what happened that night.”
However, a grandfather one of the victim’s who passed away spoke against the bail modification and didn’t mince words. “When this incident first occurred, I had empathy and compassion for everyone involved, not only for the loss of my grandson [Dylan], but for the loss of Jenna.…But as time went on, that empathy and compassion, as I learned things and heard things, quickly turned to anger and contempt. This was not an accident. This was something waiting to happen. Ajay has a history of being careless, reckless, arrogant and cocky – and that’s why we’re all here today. My family and I believe that any modification of this bond would be wholly inappropriate. There’s two people dead and I couldn’t care less if he wants to go home. There are two children that are never coming home. This is an attempt by Ajay and his family to minimize the consequences, and that’s what brought us here to begin with. [Ajay] should never have been driving…I wholeheartedly agree that he would be a flight risk, facilitated by his family.”
Next to speak, fighting back tears, was the mother of the other victim who passed away. “Our family does not support a reduction in bond. This was not an accident. This was a choice made by Ajay to drink and drive with alcohol in his system at three times the legal limit. He killed two people. Speaking to so many friends of the victims, and their parents, not one person was surprised that Ajay was driving drunk again and a crashed a vehicle. He regularly exhibited reckless behavior. It was said that they were all friends and they loved each other. Ajay is no one’s friend. When you love someone, you care for them, you protect them, you don’t intentionally hurt them or put them in unsafe situations. His record shows a previous drunk-driving crash, previous underage drinking, fighting in bars, numerous things. He’s such a good friend, that he beat up Dylan a year ago, so severely that he should have been in the hospital. If he gets out on bond, I believe he will harm or kill someone else with his recklessness – or he will flee becuase he is looking at substantial prison time.” The mother then went on to challenge Attorney Melowski’s assertions that Pierangeli was enrolled in college. “From what I was told, he didn’t even attend college last year for his junior year. It’s an excuse to get out of jail. He dropped off after his sophomore year of school. His boss told a reporter that he’s never even spoken to Attorney Melowski before to say that he has a job waiting for him…. Jenna and Dylan would love to be completing their senior year of college – for Jenna to become a nurse, and Dylan’s dream to become a doctor… It is easy for survivors and their families to write letters and speak in his defense, saying they want leniency and they want him out on bond. They are alive and they will go on with their lives. Jenna and Dylan cannot and we need to stand behind and fight for justice for them since they are no longer here to speak for themselves…I believe Court Commissioner Michel was exactly right when stated during the original bond hearing that it is concerning that Ajay not only put the four individuals that were in that vehicle at risk, but he put this whole community at risk by how he was driving. He also stated that the court is very concerned about the safety of this community.”
Prosecutor Brost then spoke saying that the State of Wisconsin is opposed any modifications to the bond. He stated that the defendant is facing a mandatory minimum of ten years in prison and is a flight risk. He pointed out that this is the second time Pierangeli was charged with an OWI-related crash. “We have two individuals, Jenna Barrett, who was 21 years of age at the time of the crash and Dylan Zamora, 22, who will never see the world again. They’re not going to be able to go home. They’re not going to be able to go to school. They’re not going to be able to go to work in their future. Their future is over…. One of the things that was in the motion, but was not discussed extensively here today, was the defendant’s health. He has been taken out of the medical ward at the jail and is not in general population. The jail had sent an email to our office showing that Mr. Pierangeli was doing push ups in jail while in the medical ward, so it doesn’t appear the medical issue is a reason to reduce the bond.” He said that there is a danger to the community if Pierangeli is released and this could happen again.
Judge Dougvillo denied the request for a no-cash bail saying in part, “This court is no stranger to the increasing issue that we’re seeing in the state and also in our community in particular when it comes to people making horrendous decisions when behind the wheel of a car. It has come in so many shapes and fashions…Also, this court is aware of bonds previously set in this county or in neighboring counties for offences similar to this…To come in here today and say a $500,000 cash bond  is in essence greater than what’s required or what’s appropriate, I don’t agree with that. We have two people here who are no longer with us. Children that don’t get to go home to their families, to help heal and collect themselves and move forward. That’s not an option for them. And when I hear the statements here the statements that are multiple people where everyone played a part in what happened, I shutter at hearing that -[be]cause that takes away the responsibility from the one person behind the wheel of a car when something like this happens. The allegations and the information in the criminal complaint, I look at as being very strong in favor of the state…The court is going to deny the request to modify bond.”
Pierangeli didn’t seem to show any emotion from the jail Friday until he heard the Judge deny his release.
The packed courtroom with about 40 people then entered the hallway, where a small skirmish ensued. The father of Pierangeli, Ryan Pierangeli appeared to physically attempt to attack the elderly grandparents of one of the deceased victims, yelling and screaming. The Kenosha County Sheriff’s Deputies got the situation under control, but Ryan kept re-starting the fight and re-entering the courthouse. KCE caught up with Pierangeli’s attorney to ask about the mistruths in the bond motion documents. He ignored us. Ajay Pierangeli’s sister and mother said disparaging things to me, but I simply thanks them for reading. I caught only audio inside the courthouse, but got a little video outside.
Pierangeli is due in court on January 26, 2024 for a pre-trial conference, where Pierangeli’s attorney is expected to file a slew of motions.
Click here to see the 18 letters written in support of Pierangeli’s release. You will see no one’s name that Attorney Melowski claimed wanted Pierangeli to be released.