SHOREWOOD, WI — A state lawmaker says the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office was too lenient on a Shorewood attorney after she was accused of spitting on a black protester during a George Floyd-related protest march and later kneed a Shorewood police officer at the time of her arrest.
Shorewood attorney Stephanie Rapkin has been formally charged with a hate crime after spitting on a 17-year-old protester during a George Floyd-related protest last week Saturday, in addition to assaulting a police officer the following day.
According to state law, Rapkin could serve up to 18 months prison if she's convicted of the disorderly conduct-hate crime charge against her, which is considered a misdemeanor. She could also serve up to three years behind bars if convicted of the battery charge against her, which is considered a felony crime.
“I will be reaching out to District Attorney Chisholm for understanding, but this turn of events just proves the point that Black people in our communities have been trying to make for years - our health, our physical safety, and our concerns are too often diminished by those in positions of power," state Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) said Friday. "This woman clearly attacked a child by spitting on him during a global pandemic - how is that nothing more than ‘disorderly’? I am incredibly disappointed in this decision to downgrade charges, and I am calling on the District
Attorney to elevate them at once to battery, as they should have been in the first place."
Bowen said that video evidence recorded during the spitting incident and circulated on social media was also available to Milwaukee County prosecutors, and should have factored into their charging decision.
"What we witnessed was not just ‘disorderly conduct,’ it was battery. This woman purposefully spit on a child, and was fully aware of what she was doing during a pandemic. Plenty of us have seen the video - should we believe that we didn’t see what we clearly saw?" he wrote.
2 Arrests, 24 Hours
Rapkin, 64, was arrested twice within 24 hours after police say she spit on a teenage protester last Saturday during a protest march, shoved a protester the next day on Sunday in front of her home, and later kneed an officer in the groin before she was taken to jail.
Authorities say Rapkin, who works as an estate planning and probate attorney with an office in Mequon, was booked into the Milwaukee County Jail after she was arrested the second time. She now faces criminal charges, and a complaint with state law regulators.
The incidents drew the attention of Shorewood officials, who quickly denounced Rapkin's actions, in the Facebook post, "hate has no home in Shorewood."
"The Village Board wants to let the community know we denounce this behavior. We are proud of all the Shorewood youth that stood up to speak about their experiences at the march on Saturday," the board wrote. "The Village Board recognizes the diversity of our community is our strength and is joining those around the nation to bring an end to violence and injustice towards people of color."
Incidents Captured On Video, In Photographs
Based on video footage captured by multiple eyewitnesses, a peaceful protest march was heading down N. Oakland Ave. Saturday at about 4:30 p.m. in Shorewood when Rapkin pulled her car across traffic lanes in an attempt to block the protest from marching further.
Footage shows Rapkin get out of her car, walk to the sidewalk and begin shouting at protesters, who quickly began to form around her.
As members of the crowd edge closer, video shows Rapkin spit on one of the protesters, later identified as Shorewood High School student Eric Lucas. Lucas spoke out about the incident on Monday, saying he felt "physically and mentally shaken" by the incident.
Speaking before reporters in a Monday morning news conference also hosted by school officials, Lucas said "I feel disappointed in feeling unloved by individuals who I have done no harm to," he said. "Our family does not hate, but does request that justice be prompt and appropriate."
In the video, protesters in the immediate area begin to encircle Rapkin, however several members of the group extend their arms to hold the group at bay, giving Rapkin a few feet of distance between her and the demonstrators she had been confronting on the sidewalk.
Shorewood police eventually caught up with Rapkin at her home at 10 p.m. Saturday. According to multiple reports, police arrested her on suspicion of battery and disorderly conduct related to the incident earlier that day.
Shorewood police said they were not able to take her to the Milwaukee County Jail due to the jail's current policies related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, that would change.
Rapkin Arrested A Second Time
According to police, a group of protesters gathered outside Rapkin's house on Sunday just before 4 p.m. to stage what police called a peaceful protest. Eyewitness reports, including one person who posted a photo of Rapkin's arrest on social media Sunday, included a photo of the chalk drawings protesters were making on the front walk.
One of the drawings admonished Rapkin for spitting on a teenager during a George Floyd-related protest march the day before.
On Sunday, police say Rapkin saw the protesters out front, came out of her house and started arguing with them.
According to Shorewood police, Rapkin slapped one of the protesters and shoved him before going back into her house.
Police said they arrived, and couldn't get her out of the house right away. According to police, she eventually came out of the house on her own. When police told her that she was under arrest, Rapkin kneed one of the male officers in the groin area, according to reports.
Police said they were able to cuff Rapkin and transport her to jail. Shorewood police say they're recommending charges of battery, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer and battery to a law enforcement officer to the Milwaukee County District Attorney's office.