Social justice activist Jessica Williams walked into the Dane County Courthouse on May 6 and was promptly arrested. She spent three days in the Dane County Jail over Mother’s Day weekend thinking she was being charged with a felony for threatening District Attorney Ismael Ozanne months earlier. Weeks after the arrest, Williams confirms to Isthmus she still doesn’t know if charges are coming.

“I would need to ask my lawyer whether or not it’s okay to say anything,” Williams says during a brief phone interview. “I was told I had pending charges.”

Williams has been leading an effort by Madison’s Freedom Inc. to advocate for Kenyairra Gadson, who was convicted of reckless homicide at a jury trial on Jan. 26. Gadson maintains she was acting in self-defense when she shot and killed a man in 2018 at a downtown parking lot. After the jury delivered a guilty verdict for Gadson, Williams allegedly shouted “Ismael Ozanne, we’re coming for you. You better be ready.”

Dane County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Elise Schaffer confirms to Isthmus that Williams was arrested because there was probable cause she made “verbal threats” to Ozanne that day in the courtroom and also provided false identity information to law enforcement.

“There were attempts to contact [Williams] in between the first incident and when she was ultimately arrested in the courthouse,” says Schaffer.

So why hasn’t Williams been charged with a crime? District Attorney Ismael Ozanne tells Isthmus via email that his office is “conflicted out.”

“Meaning we will not, and have not made any decisions in the matter. We have requested a special prosecutor be appointed,” writes Ozanne, who adds the state is working on that assignment. “[My] office does not have arrest power, this belongs to law enforcement.  The decision to incarcerate pre-charge, post-charge, and/or after conviction is the Court’s decision. ”

The ACLU of Wisconsin is investigating the case on behalf of Williams, who never saw a judge while confined to the jail. Attorney William Sulton, president of the ACLU’s board of directors, says it’s Ozanne who has run afoul of the law.

“What happened to Ms. Williams was not only bad, it was illegal. You can’t arrest someone for expressing an opinion. Her statement was clearly not a threat,” says Sulton. “[Ozanne] went to his friends at the sheriff’s department and said, ‘Arrest this woman if she shows up here to express her support for a criminal defendant.’ A DA isn’t a judge. He can’t tell a bailiff to just go arrest someone.”

Sulton also doesn’t buy that the Sheriff’s Office was unable to contact Williams in between the January incident and the May arrest given her very public advocacy work. But he adds if Ozanne really felt threatened by Williams’ statement, the top prosecutor in Dane County should have asked a judge if there was probable cause for an arrest.

“There was no reason for her to be booked into the jail in the first place, let alone for three days. She was exercising her First Amendment right,” says Sulton. “I don’t believe any prosecutor will ultimately issue charges against Ms. Williams. She was arrested for one purpose: to silence her.”

Nazi bikes

In April, the Tenney-Lapham neighborhood Facebook page alerted followers to suspicious bikes, affixed with bright colored signs, that were locked to street poles in front of Gates of Heaven on Gorham and near Tenney Park on Johnson.

“Heads up this is happening near your neighborhood (in front of Gates of Heaven) these are nazi SS symbols being displayed in a non-obvious way by a local Neo-nazi,” wrote poster Leah Rose on the neighborhood page. “Please tear [the signs] down if you see it.”

The bike near Tenney, by the bridge over the Yahara River, featured signs that read “Stop Speeding” and “Speeding KillS,” both using the characteristic SS bolts derived from the Schutzstaffel (SS) of Nazi Germany.

The bikes have since been removed by…we aren’t exactly sure. But in the course of looking into this oddly subtle use of hate symbols, Tell Dylan located the man behind them. His name is Randin Divelbiss and he confirms that he intentionally used the SS bolts in his bike display.

“If you’re a white person, you immediately are labeled a racist if you show any pride in being from Germany or Italy. You are called named like, ‘Nazi’ or ‘fascist,’” says Divelbiss. “Me and my group Madison Stop Speeding are concerned about bicyclists and people being hit by cars. It’s a real problem. Have you seen how fast people go down East Wash, Johnson, University Avenue?”

Isthmus couldn’t find any mention online of Divelbiss’ group and he says no other members will talk to the media because they fear retaliation from “BLM terrorists.”

He doesn’t dispute SS bolts were used by the Nazis but says he’s using them because he has a First Amendment right to display the “runic symbol for victory.”

“I don’t support history books or media that defame Germany by transmitting falsities. If what is said about the Nazis is true, of course I don’t support that. I’m the opposite of that. I care about bicyclist safety,” insists Divelbiss.

Yikes. But if the goal is to get motorists to slow down, why use Nazi symbols to get that message across?

“Have you seen those other ‘slow down’ signs? They don’t work. We’re trying to get people’s attention,” says Divelbiss. “Would you be talking to me if I didn’t use the runic symbol for victory?”

Hey, what about me?

Around a dozen TV, radio and print reporters were in the press pen in the late afternoon May 21 at the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s annual state convention. Alec Zimmerman, campaign staffer for GOP candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch, said his boss would be taking questions outside.

Everyone followed Zimmerman, Kleefisch arrived, and the media formed a tight half-circle around the candidate as they jockeyed to ask questions. The gaggle ended in two minutes but one of Kleefisch’s Republican opponents, Kevin Nicholson, popped in and the whole scene repeated itself. Waiting nearby was Adam Fischer, the longshot GOP candidate for governor, who describes himself as “One pissed-off American.” He was the only candidate not to receive a single vote when delegates voted on whether to endorse a candidate ahead of the state primary.

“Hey, I’m here. Anybody want to talk to me?” Fischer asked. “I’m also running for governor. Don’t you think people want to hear about me?”

Most of Wisconsin’s political press corps slunk away, avoiding eye contact with Fischer. But not Capital Times reporter Jessie Opoien. In a supreme act of journalistic fairness, she stuck around to ask Fischer some questions.

“So what’s your path,” asked Opoien.

“I’m doing this because as a man of God and ex-police officer, I can’t be bullied. And as a business owner, I can’t be bought,” he said. “These other news stations that don’t want to give me any media attention, one day they’ll be waiting for my people to tell them they won’t be getting an interview.”

Tell Dylan asked Fischer to cite an issue that separates him from the rest of the GOP pack running to take on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. His answer: “I’m going to deputize all the deer hunters in the state to fix crime.”





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