Invested in community justice

Running unopposed for district attorney, Lindsay says he was drawn to Ozaukee County prosecutor’s office by the desire to see the impact of his work

ADAM GEROL, WHO WAS sworn in as an Ozaukee County Circuit Court judge on Monday, and his successor Ben Lindsay (right) posed last week in the law library at the District Attorney Office. Lindsay is running unopposed in the November election for district attorney. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Ben Lindsay sees the Ozaukee County District Attorney’s Office as a place where  one can see the positive impact a prosecutor makes every day, especially when compared to working in the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office, where he worked from 2012 to 2018.

“The interesting thing in Milwaukee is you can get a lot of great experience,” he said. “But it’s very high on burnout. You sometimes feel like you’re on a rat wheel. It’s hard to see the impact you’re having.

“Here on a daily basis you’re dealing with members of the community who will be benefited. It’s easy to see the impact.”

That was part of what drew him to the  District Attorney’s Office in 2018 to work as an assistant district attorney and why he wants to be the new district attorney, succeeding Adam Gerol as district attorney.

Lindsay, 40, is running unopposed in the November election.

“I’m invested here and I can see the impact every day,” Lindsay, who has lived in Cedarburg with his wife Courtney since 2013, said. She is an attorney with the law firm of Antoine, Hoeft and Eberhardt in Port Washington. They have one child.

“There’s a lot of personal investment here. It’s not hard to be able to feel you’re plugged in.”

Lindsay grew up in Wausau and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2012.

During college, he worked for former State Sen. Alberta Darling. While in law school, he was a judicial intern for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

He served in the George W. Bush Administration from 2006 to 2008, ultimately as deputy associate director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, where he recruited candidates for presidential appointments.

But in law school, he switched his interest from political work to criminal law, with an eye toward being a prosecutor.

“During law school I did the prosecutor clinic and realized I really enjoyed it. It’s more active than a lot of legal practice and it seemed like an area where you could do a lot of good,” he said.

Lindsay said he’s looking forward to taking the reins of the office in January.

“I certainly have big shoes to fill,” he said, referring to Gerol, who became district attorney in 2009.  Gerol was appointed  to be circuit court judge by Gov. Tony Evers to succeed Judge Paul Malloy until July 31, 2025.

Gerol was sworn in on Monday.

“Adam has maintained a very well-run office. I want to ensure that tradition of quality prosecution continues,” Lindsay said, noting that Circuit Court Judge Sandy Williams was the former district attorney who hired Gerol to be a prosecutor in 1992. Tom Wolfgram, who was district attorney before Williams also became a judge.

“I anticipate being here a very long time,” he said.

While crime is bound to increase as the county grows in population, Lindsay said one of his major concerns is the “bleed over” of crime from Milwaukee and other locations, some of which he attributes to practices by prosecutors and judges in other counties.

“Since the onset of Covid, there have been efforts to minimize their caseloads and jail population.

“I’m just speaking anecdotally, but we’ve seen the negative impact here of de-emphasizing the importance of small violations,” he said.

“People get stopped here for speeding or an expired license and they assume it will just be a ticket. But if they’re free on bail after being charged with a felony (in another county), that’s felony bail jumping,” which will land them in the Ozaukee County Jail.

That “bleed over” has also resulted in more retail thefts and high-speed chases that end in crashes, he said.

“We’ve seen decisions in Milwaukee, Sheboygan and farther north or the Upper Peninsula affecting us. This is one large community,”  he said.

One of those “small violations” he said he wants to pay closer attention to is driving without a license. Some counties have stopped prosecuting driving without a license and simply issue tickets.

“More and more people are driving without a license,” he said. “We need to work at distinguishing between those who are appropriate for a fine and those who are truly dangerous drivers. If you don’t have a license, you don’t have insurance. “I would like to start assessing and take a look at underlying behaviors. There should be an aggressive response,” he said.

He also is in favor of reviving the use of the so-called Len Bias law, in which a supplier of drugs that leads to an overdose death or serious injury can be sentenced to as many as 20 years in prison.

Officially known as the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, the law is named after the University of Maryland basketball player who died of a cocaine overdose two days after being picked second in the NBA draft.

The law has been used numerous times by Gerol’s office to convict drug dealers or those who aided in the purchase of drugs, such as in 2020 when a Fredonia woman arranged a drug purchase for a co-worker who overdosed and died and in 2017 when a Town of Grafton man was instrumental in obtaining heroin that killed his daughter.

“We’ve seen a drop-off of investigating overdose deaths, which are sadly high and shows no signs of abating,” Lindsay said.

“It’s difficult sometimes (to prove those cases) but those are going to remain a priority of our office and law enforcement,” he said. “The drug transaction many times is not happening here, but the death is here.”

He said drug addiction and mental illness issues, which he sees as connected, will continue.

“Drug addiction leads to crime, violence and property crime. We need better systems in the community,” he said.

Lindsay was named “managing district attorney” by Gerol, but he won’t officially be in charge of the office until he is appointed by Evers, at which time he would be interim district attorney.

Until he has the interim title, he will be unable to fill the vacancy in the office left by Gerol’s appointment and his promotion.

“That’s a concern. We have a high volume caseload as it is,” he said.

Looking on the bright side, Gerol recently told a committee of county supervisors that waiting until January to fill the position may not be a bad thing.

With contested district attorney races in Waukesha and Washington counties in November, “there may be some very qualified people available” to hire following those elections.

Evers’ office did not respond to a request for comment on how soon an appointment might be made.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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