June 25, 2009

City appeals dismissal of charge against teacher

The city is appealing Judge Mark Nielsen dismissal of obstruction charges brought against a Horlick High School teacher who questioned a policeman's right to remove a student from his classroom.

Social Studies teacher Al Levie was given a $455 citation for asking whether a police officer who wanted to question a student had a warrant. Nielsen ruled on May 27 that Levie's question did not constitute obstruction, but he also said officers are allowed to do their job without interference anywhere in the community.

City Attorney Rob Weber said his department has appealed the judgment "because we think the judge was wrong." The city is not asking for a new trial, merely that a Circuit Court judge review Nielsen's ruling.

Asked how the decision to appeal was made, Weber said, "I know the Police Department was upset by the case, but that never plays a part." Weber said Assistant City Attorney Scott Letteney, who handled the case, "convinced me we should appeal."

So far, the city has not had to give any reasons for its appeal, because the trial transcript has not yet been completed. Until it is, neither side will have to present briefs.

Weber also noted the irony that he was attorney for the Racine Education Association for 30 years, a group not happy with the city's appeal.

Levie said "it's unbelieveable" that the city is fighting the decision. "It seems to me, as a taxpayer, they're spending an inordinate amount of time on a ticket worth less than $500." Levie, who spent $5,500 on his defense in the case, said his lawyer said that in his 40 years of practice, he's never seen a city appeal an ordinance violation. "It seems they're trying to bully their way into a different verdict."

Alderman Michael Shields, president of the local chapter of the NAACP, also wonders "why the city would want to appeal this kind of minor case." He spoke to Weber about it -- "I wanted to see why it's important to waste city dollars" -- and said Weber told him "the judge made a terrible mistake." Still, Shields doesn't feel he's gotten a satisfactory answer about what that mistake might be. "If it started as a school issue, why are we taking it so hard?" He says he's brought his reservations to the ear of Mayor Dickert.


  1. Since when is it inappropriate to ask police officers whether they have a warrant?

  2. If the emotions of the police department were not a factor in deciding to appeal, then why did Weber even bring it up?

    If this case is reversed, doesn't that basically tell Racine police officers that they can do whatever they want to do, and no citizen is allowed to even ask a question about it?

  3. I don't think Rob should be listening to Scott Letteney, ever.

  4. Anonymous 10:07, Scott is a fine prosecutor with more than 20 years' experience as an attorney. He has also been a municipal judge himself for more than 10 years. What are your qualifications to decide whether the case should be appealed. Were you in the courtroom? Have you seen a transcript? If so, identify yourself so everyone can know why anyone should pay attention to you.

  5. Interesting that the city is now bullying to get the decision they want. Isn't that the kind of behavior that got us here in the first place? I am glad this is back in the news. I want to see the officers reprimanded. I hope that a major news source picks this up and embarasses the lot of them. Party on.

  6. Anonymous asks Anonymous, "... identify yourself so everyone can know why anyone should pay attention to you ..."

  7. Maybe the teachers and parents would like ALL of the police to vacate ALL of the High Schools for good??

    Put your money where your liberal mouths are.

    Contact and picket Unified and tell them you don't want any more cops in the high schools.

    That will teach all of them!!!

    You sorry sad asses.

    No wonder why this city is F'd up!

  8. With serious allegations of mis-conduct being made against police, working in the schools, asking questions seems appropriate!

  9. Randolph, employing irony, qustions anonymity challenging anonymity while remaining equally anonymous.

  10. Anon:

    Randy Brandt here. And I've identified myself before on these pages, for anybody who's been paying attention.

  11. We have trouble in the schools because of gangs. Who's job is it to handle gangs? The police were dead wrong on this one. The city is moronic for appealing the decision. I hope they end up with a big black eye over it. They deserve it. They didn't leave well enough alone. Yeah, like anyone want to put their name so they can become harassed too. Sorry, no deal.

  12. Anon's worried about harassment; does he mean by police?

    If so, that's one of the reasons we have warrants, or at least a doctrine of probable cause based on some rational information and belief.

    That doesn't handcuff police. It makes them do their jobs right and protects all citizens. We give police a lot of power, as it should be. We depend upon them to protect us, and they have a legitimate concern over their own safety.

    But anybody can become overenthusiastic in their pursuits. These checks and balances protect everyone.

  13. ... or else we live in Iran.

  14. Question Authority6/28/2009 11:59 PM

    It is the duty of every citizen to investigate government activities to assure they are being legally conducted.

    Checking the authenticity of a search warrant is certainly a valid citizen activity.

    Opposing such activity is tyrannical

  15. I think everyone on here agrees that is was not unreasonable to simply ask about the warrant.

    The city is heading down the wrong path with this.

    I do hope a major news source picks this story up and does show how stupid and criminal this behavior is.

    I am going to email it around so they see what is happening in Racine.

  16. Has Robbie Weber and Nielsen have a falling out of sorts?

  17. I am shocked at this. The teacher is responsible for the students in their classroom. What if the cop was not doing his duty, but using his authority to get access to a student.

    If the child ended up dead, would not the parents sue the school and that teacher. I would expect they would.

    Should parents be given citation if they dare question a policeman asking to take their child to an unknown location for an unknown activity.

    If we would not cite the parent, we should not cite the teacher. I would be glad a teacher too the time to insure that my child was safe.

    As it is police, DCS and other government agencies exploit the school system to get access to kids without proper warrants and judicial review. Children have rights and that teacher was only acting the students behalf as any wise citizen would.

  18. Send your students to private schools and you'll avoid the police and left winged union teachers. The private schools have neither. Check out the JT's Sunday front page on graduation results - why anyone would ever send their students to Unified after reviewing these statistics is beyond me.

  19. They send their children to public schools because there is no competition. We need school vouchers. Then the public schools would have to do as good as private or get out of the business.

  20. Based on Unified's results, I think they are already out of business.

  21. Too bad tax payers are still sinking 300 million into RUSD for not so good results.

    But back to the teacher. The officers need to go back for training and leave the teacher alone. This is really rediculous now.