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Judge in Marshfield Police chief’s case determines not enough evidence to move forward with misconduct in office charges

Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 9:24 AM CST
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) -The judge in the case against Marshfield Police Chief Rick Gramza determined Thursday morning that the state did not meet its burden to move forward with misconduct in office felony charges.

Rick Gramza is charged with three counts of misconduct in office, disorderly conduct, and fourth-degree sexual assault against a department employee. He is accused of sexually assaulting a department employee on several occasions, as early as 2014 and as late as this past summer.

Gramza has denied some of the victim’s more sexually aggressive complaints.

Judge Thomas Eagon ruled during Gramza’s last court appearance in January that there was enough evidence for the misdemeanor sexual assault and disorderly conduct charges to move forward to trial, but wanted more probable cause for the three counts of misconduct in office. He gave the prosecution 10 days to file a brief and make a case for the charges and the defense had 10 days to respond. The arguments, largely, did not change from what was said in the courtroom.

Judge Eagon used the precedent-setting case of Wisconsin vs. Schmit to determine whether the state had met its burden for the misconduct in office charges. In that case, which went through the Court of Appeals, a corrections officer was charged with misconduct in office after having sex with an inmate, but the charges did not move forward.

“The court in Schmit indicated it must be an act in which a person is forbidden to do in his or her official capacity rather than an act that is forbidden to everyone regardless of the official capacity,” Judge Eagon said. “The appeals court stated that the purpose of the misconduct in public office laws prevent the misuse of power entrusted to public officers rather than the imposition of an additional penalty for conduct that is forbidden for all persons, generally.”

As it relates to Gramza’s case, Judge Eagon said, “As the court previously stated that there was no evidence or testimony presented showing that any threats or promises or quid pro quo was made by the defendant to the person identified as Victim 1. And in the investigator’s testimony, the investigator did not know whether the defendant had authority or was part of the decision-making process in regards to the promotion that was involved in the 2015 incident.”

According to the Marshfield Police Department’s policies, supervisors may be involved in the internal promotion process, including making recommendations about the employee and conducting evaluations. The chief appoints that person to the position. This policy was not cited in the court record.

This is part of the promotions process policy listed in the Marshfield Police Department's...
This is part of the promotions process policy listed in the Marshfield Police Department's policy manual.(WSAW Emily Davies)

Judge Eagon added the prosecution can file the misconduct in office charges again if it has more evidence to present.

Gramza’s attorney told NewsChannel 7 they are happy with the outcome Thursday. Gramza pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges.

At the same time Gramza is going through this court process, the City of Marshfield is also moving forward with the process of potentially removing Gramza from the police department. The police and fire commission met Feb. 10 and discussed the process and scheduling of a hearing.

Members and attorneys settled on the hearing beginning March 10 and attorneys anticipated they would have about eight days worth of exhibits and witness testimony to go through, though due to scheduling conflict, the hearing will not necessarily happen in consecutive days. The members aim to have the hearing process completed by March 25, though it could be extended if necessary. Members mentioned they wanted to make sure the process was swift but fair.

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