Exclusive: Investigation says former Luxemburg Police Chief did not follow domestic violence law

Posted: 11:56 PM, Feb 28, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-01 16:18:06Z

An outside investigation into former Luxemburg Police Chief John Massart states that Massart did not follow state law in his handling of two separate domestic violence cases.

The two cases in this Kewaunee County village of nearly 2,600 people were similar:  A woman reported that her husband or boyfriend hit her, Massart was a responding officer to the scene and the suspect was gone when Massart arrived, and the alleged victim in each case declined to pursue charges due to financial concerns, records said.

“Law enforcement dropped the ball, the chief dropped the ball,” said Luxemburg Assistant Police Chief Larry Hurley, who filed a complaint against Massart that preceded the outside investigation.  An assistant police chief from a separate department conducted the outside investigation.

Massart did not follow police department policy and state law by “failing to make an arrest or forward a recommendation of charges in these cases,” the investigation said.  Massart declined repeated requests for comment.  Massart told a reporter that he has his opinion, and the Village has theirs.

In one of the cases in question, a then-28-year-old woman initially stated that her boyfriend hit her in the face, after which she fell down and nearly landed on her children, records said.  The couple's initial argument was over money and the woman feared that if her boyfriend were arrested, he would lose his job and they would suffer further financial issues, records said.  The boyfriend was not arrested in the case, records said.  Massart sent the case file from the April, 2017 incident to the prosecutor's office in October of 2017, the investigation said.

“Ultimately the victim pays the price, because the system failed them,” Hurley, the assistant chief, said. 

In the other case, a woman reported that her husband hit her in the face at their home, records said.  The woman, however, did not want her husband arrested; if he were arrested and lost his job, it would mean “no income for my children and… we would lose our home,” the woman wrote in a police statement.   The husband was not arrested in the case, records said.  Massart sent the case file from the July, 2016 case to the prosecutor's office in October of 2017, the investigation said.

The women listed in the domestic violence reports declined to be interviewed for this story.

That outside investigator, Assistant Chief Brian Kohlmeier of the Two Rivers Police Department, wrote in his investigation that:

“The fact that an arrest could adversely affect employment or income is… a factor that should not be considered in an [officer’s] arrest decision under the Domestic Abuse statute.  It can be said, these are some of the very reasons that lead to the difficulty in breaking the chain of domestic violence and a victim’s willingness to report incidents or follow through with prosecution.”

The “findings” section of the investigative report reads, in part:

“The Chief’s failure to follow [Wisconsin domestic violence law] constitutes a violation of WI Statute.  The failure to follow the mandated requirements of [Wisconsin domestic violence law] does meet the elements of… Misconduct in public office.”

Misconduct in public office in Wisconsin is a felony.  Massart has not been charged with a crime.  He resigned in late 2017.

"I don't have a good excuse," Massart told the investigator regarding why a 2016 case was not sent to the prosecutor until 2017, the investigation states.  "[It] was on my list of things to do, fell through the cracks," the investigation quotes Massart as saying.  Massart "competed the [report] the morning he met with the investigator at the beginning of this formal internal investigation," the review states.

An interim Police Chief, Chris Gulbrand, was appointed to conduct a review of department policies and is “straightening everything out,” said Village Trustee Dan Porath.  Porath declined a request for an on-camera interview.

Kewaunee County District Attorney Andrew Naze said he is not aware of any investigation into Massart.  An attorney for the Village of Luxemburg, Dennis Abts, said no further action was necessary after Massart’s resignation.  Village President Ken Tebon said he could not comment because he had not seen the investigation into Massart.