A Shorewood woman once charged with a hate crime after being accused of spitting at a Black teen during a George Floyd protest, told reporters Tuesday she didn't do it and wants to go to trial.
Stephanie Rapkin, 66, came to court for what was expected to be a no-contest plea to simple battery as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.
But her attorney, Michael Steinle told Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Wagner his client wanted him to withdraw from representing her.
"I've wanted a trial from the beginning," Rapkin told the judge, "and Mr. Steinle doesn't believe it's in my best interest."
The judge told her Steinle is very experienced.
"I'm a very experienced lawyer, too, your honor," replied Rapkin, who has practiced probate and estate law from her office in Mequon.
Wagner set a status hearing for Aug. 17. The trial is scheduled for Oct. 3. Rapkin said she doesn't have a new attorney lined up yet.
After the brief hearing, Rapkin told reporters she is innocent. "I did not spit on a child, I wish people would stop saying that," she said, adding that video will show she spat down, not up at the taller teen.
Eric Lucas was 17 at the time. He sued Rapkin for battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress over the June 6, 2020, incident on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood.
That lawsuit has been on hold, pending the outcome of the criminal charges, because answering questions in the civil case might affect Rapkin's right to remain silent in the criminal matter.
According to the complaint, Rapkin parked her car in the middle of the street to intentionally impede a Black Lives Matter march in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis days earlier.
Some protesters demanded Rapkin move her car, while others swarmed around and past it. At some point, she exited the car. She said she was threatened and touched and tried to get people to move away.
Lucas' attorney, William Sulton, attended Tuesday's hearing. After Rapkin spoke to reporters, Sulton talked and showed still photos, part of the lawsuit, taken from video of the incident. The image, he said, clearly shows Rapkin spitting at his client.
Sulton called it appalling that prosecutors only charged Rapkin with disorderly conduct, instead of battery, and that they would have offered her a deferred prosecution. In such an agreement, a charge is usually dismissed if the subject complies with specific conditions or requirements over time.
"I think it's very telling she decided not to take it and fired a second lawyer," Sulton said.
Rapkin was formerly represented by Jason Luczak, who successfully moved for dismissal of a hate crime enhancement on the disorderly conduct charge. If prosecutors had proven Rapkin's actions were racially motivated, the penalty could have been a year in jail, rather than nine months.
Rapkin is also charged with battery on a police officer, a felony, for actions she allegedly took during her arrest outside her home the day after the rally. Rapkin has pleaded not guilty to each count. That matter will be tried separately.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Shorewood lawyer rejects plea deal in spitting case from 2020 protest