Judge dismisses charge against SIST CEO

Shawano Leader, Wisconsin/April 16, 2009

A judge on Tuesday dismissed an obstruction charge filed against the CEO of the Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology. SIST's lawyer says he's considering filing a claim against the city over the incident, though a Shawano Police official defended the arrest as appropriate given the circumstances.

Assistant Shawano-Menominee County District Attorney Catherine White moved for the dismissal, which Judge J.R. Habeck granted.

"It was clear we weren't going to prevail at the motion hearing," White said.

Isaacson was arrested Aug. 24 as she stood outside the former Ponderosa restaurant on E. Green Bay Street. Workers were removing equipment and furnishings from the building, which SIST owns.

There was a dispute between SIST and the company vacating the building over ownership of the equipment, and police were called several times that night and the next day.

Shawano Police arrested Isaacson after she refused to give her name while being issued a loitering citation.

However, a municipal court judge on Jan. 16 dismissed the loitering citation against her and one against Kal Gronvall, who was in Isaacson's car at the time.

White said two previous court rulings fit the "fact scenario" in the Isaacson case. Those cases found that "refusal to give your name when asked by the police is not, without anything else, obstructing," White explained.

White noted that refusing to provide your name can arguably lead to an obstructing charge, but officers would have to show more basis for the arrest than in this particular case.

The case will not be refiled, White said.

SIST's attorney, Alan Eisenberg of Milwaukee, participated in the hearing by telephone. He said Isaacson should not have been arrested.

"It is not obstructing to refuse to answer a question from a police officer," Eisenberg said. "The cop knew very well who she was; she identified herself as the owner of the property. She was standing on her own property."

Eisenberg added that, in his opinion, the incident amounted to "false arrest and malicious prosecution, and there should be consequences for that."

Eisenberg said he's "definitely contemplating" filing a claim against the city concerning Isaacson's arrest. Besides being wrongfully arrested, he said, Isaacson suffered injuries to her wrists.

Capt. Jeff Heffernon of the Shawano Police Department said Isaacson's arrest was proper.

"It was not a matter of false arrest in the opinion of the Shawano Police Department," Heffernon said. "She was asked her name so the officer could fill out the citation, and she refused. (The officer) was taking what we felt was legitimate law enforcement action at the time, and I would concur."

The burdens of proof at every level of the law enforcement process are different, he added. For police, probable cause was needed, "and in this case we felt we had it."

Heffernon added: "We're comfortable in what we did and how we did it."

He noted the facts in every case are different, so you can't generalize what happened to Isaacson to other cases.

"I'm not sure why she refused to give her name," Heffernon said. "We felt she needed to give out her name so we could give her the citation."

Heffernon noted that the system of justice could break down if officers can't get the names of people during their normal course of doing their jobs.

"Imagine you're the police officer issuing a citation, but you can't if police don't have a right to identify you," Heffernon said.

Habeck said Wednesday there have been no recent changes in the law in Wisconsin, but other states have enacted legislation requiring a positive response to questions of identity. Some have been taken to the Supreme Court, but the rulings haven't been very clear, he added.

Habeck said the cases cited by White fit the circumstances in Isaacson's case.

"(Isaacson) was there, but wasn't causing a problem," Habeck said. "I believe (White) interpreted the law right."

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