Days before he was scheduled to go to trial, the state has dropped a sex assault charge against Jacob Blake, with a prosecutor saying the woman who made the allegation had stopped cooperating with investigators.
Blake, appearing in Kenosha County Circuit Court Friday morning via Zoom from a rehabilitation facility in Illinois, pleaded guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct as part of a plea agreement. The disorderly conduct charges relate to verbal arguments he had with the mother of his three children, the same woman involved in the sex assault case. One of those incidents occurred in May, a second earlier in the spring.
“Honestly, your honor, although I pled guilty to this, I don’t consider myself to be guilty. I pretty much took this opportunity to get to see my children quicker,” Blake told Judge Bruce Schroeder at the hearing.
Schroeder sentenced Blake to two years of probation.
Blake said he had been living with his sons, ages 3, 5 and 8, before he was shot by a Kenosha Police officer Aug. 23 as police were attempting to take him into custody.
Officers had been called that day by the mother of Blake’s children, who reported a dispute over a vehicle and said Blake was at her home and should not be. Blake had been wanted on a warrant related to an incident in May when the woman reported that Blake had taken her car and debit card and that he touched her sexually without her consent.
The shooting, which left Blake paralyzed, was captured in a video that went viral on social media and led to widespread protesting and unrest in Kenosha in the ensuing days. The shooting remains under investigation, with Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley expected to make a decision in the coming weeks about whether the officer should be charged.
The sexual assault case had been scheduled to go to trial next week.
The plea agreement includes a stipulation that the state will not charge Blake for any past contact with police included in statements to the court. But it specifically leaves open the possibility that he could face charges for the August incident that led to his shooting.
At the hearing Friday, Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, acting as a special prosecutor in the case, said the state dropped the sexual assault charge and came to a plea agreement with Blake’s defense attorney at least in part because the woman who made the allegation was not cooperating with the prosecution. Wiedenfeld is handling the case as a special prosecutor at the request of the Kenosha County District Attorney’s Office.
“This was an agreement reached partly because the victim in this matter was not responsive to the subpoena to appear in court,” Wiedenfeld said. He said she would not return his messages and that she had also stepped back from her allegations that day after she initially called police in May.
However, Wiedenfeld told Schroeder that while Blake had never been convicted of a crime with the exception of a case when he was a juvenile, there was a long history of police calls from the woman alleging domestic violence or property disputes.
Wiedenfeld recounted calls to police going back to 2016, including one in which the woman said Blake punched and choked her. Police in that case reported seeing bruises on the woman.
In another incident in 2015 in Racine County, Wiedenfeld said, Blake was the suspect in a case in which a man was accused of pulling out a gun at a bar. He was stopped by police, had a gun in his vehicle and was intoxicated. “He actively resisted officers taking him into custody,” Wiedenfeld said. “An officer was injured during that scuffle with him as well.”
The prosecutor said Blake had no adult convictions “despite all this behavior” but said “his pattern and history gives credence and credibility to what the victim told officers at the time of this incident that we are sentencing for.”
Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty said police officers who initially investigated the incident had only recommended a disorderly conduct charge. “There have been allegations made in the past, absolutely none of which have led to conviction,” Cafferty said. “He comes to you with no adult record whatsoever.”
Cafferty said Blake has a good work history, a strong relationship with his children, and was up to date on his child support. Blake told the court he had been living with his children and the woman who made the allegations at the time the shooting occurred.
Likely to stay in Illinois
Blake sometimes appeared weak as he was speaking to the court. Cafferty said Blake is continuing to receive medical treatment in Illinois and is unlikely to ever return to Wisconsin.
“He has a severe spinal cord injury and the expectation is that he will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days,” Cafferty said. “Anyone who meets with him is struck by the amount of pain he is in on a regular basis.”
Cafferty said Blake’s family has found a wheelchair accessible home for him in Illinois and he is expected to move there.
Schroeder told Blake engaging in domestic violence sets “a ghastly example for these children” and called the behavior attributed to him disturbing.
The judge rejected Cafferty’s request that Blake receive a fine rather than probation.
“But your life has changed dramatically and perpetually,” Schroeder said. “I hope that (your medical condition) will improve and that you’ll do better, but it does make unrealistic the suggestion that you be imprisoned for these cases.”
Schroeder ordered that Blake be allowed to serve his probation in Illinois and refused the prosecutor’s request that he be ordered to have drug and alcohol treatment. He said that Blake’s ability to have contact with the mother of his children will be up to his probation agent.