Ozaukee jury acquits man of threatening to harm judge

Not guilty verdicts are latest twists in Saukville resident’s legal travails
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press Staff

An Ozaukee County jury last week acquitted a man of charges that he threatened a judge presiding over his child custody case in a September 2017 Facebook rant — the latest twist in court cases involving the Saukville resident.

The jury deliberated less than an hour-and-a-half June 21 before finding 43-year-old John K. Borowski not guilty of two felony charges — threatening to harm Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland and threatening to damage his property.

A month earlier, domestic abuse battery and disorderly conduct charges, as well as a felony bail jumping charge filed against Borowski two months after he was charged with threatening Voiland, were dismissed. The alleged victim in the case, who initially said Borowski hurt her during a 2017 Thanksgiving Day altercation, recanted her story and has since eluded authorities trying to serve her with a subpoena.

According to the criminal complaint in the case alleging Borowski threatened Voiland, on Sept. 30, 2017, the day after the judge issued an order sanctioning him for his legal tactics involving a child custody dispute, Borowski posted this message on Facebook:

“I’m a white man being deprived of my child for unjust causes. I have absolutely no criminal record. I barely drink and am constantly subjected to drug and alcohol tests required by the FRA. Children now 22 and almost 20 can attest to my parenting. Who’s with me to riot and loot the courthouse? Possibly the judge’s neighborhood? I want to really put a test to ‘white privilege’ and ‘male’ superiority. I don’t think taking a knee or destroying my own neighborhood will do any good.”

Authorities were made aware of the Facebook post after someone sent a copy of it to the lawyer of Borowski’s ex-wife with a message that read, “Do not let him be with his daughter,” the complaint states.

After reading the message, Voiland said such rants are part of the job but added that this one caused him concern about the safety of his family, according to the complaint.

A juror, however, said that after hearing testimony during last week’s trial, the jury didn’t believe Borowski’s Facebook post constituted a legitimate threat.

“I don’t think the DA proved his case,” the juror, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “There just wasn’t enough evidence to prove this was a real threat rather than just a rant.”

The juror said she believed Borowski when he testified that he was just blowing off steam by posting his Facebook message.

The threat charges were filed as Voiland presided over a prolonged legal battle between Borowski and his now ex-wife.         In 2013, Voiland granted Borowski’s then-estranged wife’s request for a domestic abuse injunction that prohibited him from having contact with her for two years. The judge later extended the injunction.

During a Sept. 15, 2017, hearing in the child custody case, Voiland dismissed motions brought by Borowski, who opted not to hire an attorney to represent him in some court matters, and ruled that he was not capable or competent of representing himself.

Shortly after that, Voiland issued a written order prohibiting Borowski from personally filing any pleadings. Only a “qualified, competent attorney” could file pleadings on Borowski’s behalf, according to the order.

“If petitioner Borowski is unable to retain a qualified, competent attorney to represent him in this matter, he shall be permitted to submit a motion for the appointment of an attorney ....” Voiland wrote. 

That order has since complicated the case, which was transferred to Washington County Judge James Muehlbauer after Borowski was charged with threatening Voiland. 

In an April 2018 order, Muehlbauer wrote that Voiland’s order had resulted in an “untenable” predicament. Borowski, who was trying to modify his child support payments at the time, was barred by Voiland from petitioning the court directly and at the same time unable to afford an attorney.

Noting that Wisconsin does not “recognize the right of an indigent party to have a court appointed attorney in a civil case,” Muehlbauer wrote, “That being said, the predicament that Borowski finds himself in by not being able to afford an attorney and not being allowed to file a pro se request to modify child support, is untenable. Unless this court appoints an attorney to represent him, Borowski is effectively denied access to the court system.

“Such a denial of access to the court system would be a denial of Borowski’s constitutional right to due process and equal protection under the law. 

“The language of Judge Voiland’s Sept. 28, 2017, order indicates Judge Voiland was aware of these potential constitutional problems, which have now occurred.”

Muehlbauer appointed an attorney to represent Borowski at Ozaukee County’s expense, although the judge noted that the county could seek reimbursement from Borowski.

As Borowski continues to sort out his family case in civil court, it remains to be seen if his troubles are over in criminal court. 

The misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct charges, as well as the felony bail jumping charge, were dismissed without prejudice, which means they can be refiled, something Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said he will do if the alleged victim can be found. 

“We’re actively working to track her down, and I would advance the case if I can produce her,” he said.

The case had been on track for a May 22 trial before the alleged victim recanted her accusations, then disappeared. 

Gerol petitioned Washington County Circuit Judge Todd Martens, who was assigned the case as well as the one charging Borowski with threatening Voiland, for an adjournment of the trial. Martens, however, denied the request because a delay would exceed the deadline set into motion when Borowski exercised his right to a speedy trial. 

According to the criminal complaint that has since been dismissed, Borowski returned home from a Dec. 12, 2017, preliminary hearing on the threat charges to find the woman he lived with was moving out.

The woman, who called an Ozaukee County Sheriff’s deputy to Borowski’s home, told the deputy that Borowski was preventing her from loading her belongings into a U-Haul truck. 

While there was no physical altercation that day, the woman said, there was on Thanksgiving when Borowski shoved her to the ground, causing her to cut herself on a metal table, the complaint states.

When the deputy told the woman Borowski was going to be arrested, she said, “You don’t know what he will do when he gets out,” according to the complaint.

But in a notarized letter purportedly written by the woman and received by the court in  April, the woman wrote that she knew Borowski was scheduled to be in court on Dec. 12 and took advantage of the opportunity to reclaim her belongings from his house, which she broke into. She wrote that in case she encountered Borowski and had to call police, she made up the story to tell officers. 

“Knowing how much Ozaukee County hates Mr. Borowski and would love nothing more than to put him in jail, I knew I could say anything and get away with it,” she wrote. “Mr. Borowski has never physically assaulted me or abused me.”

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