Darrell Brooks. Not by name, but she is repeatedly referred to as his former girlfriend, “Bonnie,” and “the pregnant woman” throughout this case, has stayed home since Brooks’ Aug. 25 arrest and filed for a restraining order against him.
Police in Waukesha, Wis., charged Brooks, a retired University of Wisconsin football player, with sexual assault that day. His former paramour and mother of his three young children, Bonnie Szafranski, called 911 and alleged that Brooks had sexually assaulted her following an argument with her boyfriend, who was at the house at the time.
“I want you to send a cop down here right now,” Szafranski told the 911 operator as Brooks held her against her will, a video clip from the police body camera suggests.
According to Szafranski, the alleged assault took place on the night of Aug. 25. When police arrived at Brooks’ apartment in the wee hours of the morning, they found Szafranski in the home, apparently unharmed. When interviewed by police, Szafranski alleged that Brooks had assaulted her physically and sexually in the past.
After her 911 call, Szafranski told officers she had been harassed and had no money and did not have custody of her children, who were asleep on the couch. Authorities then took her children into custody and placed them in a safe place.
Szafranski filed for a restraining order against Brooks on Aug. 27, alleging that Brooks had tried to choke her, threatened to kill her and threaten to “kill all of our kids,” under the threat of stalking and terrorizing. Brooks responded in his not guilty plea Nov. 6, denying the charges. He is currently being held in the Ozaukee County Jail on a $1 million bond.
In the meantime, Brooks is out on bond. He is a free man, apparently running some sort of food distribution program, as if paying bond is not enough to disqualify someone from being employed.
Waukesha Police Captain Steve Kellogg tells me that they have “had significant communication” with Szafranski, all of whom have agreed to be interviewed by police in a Nov. 30 appearance at a judge’s bench in court. His case is currently pending before a judge. A spokeswoman for the county attorney’s office told me that they cannot comment further on the matter.
Gregg Duchossois, president of Laishoff & Duchossois, a Milwaukee-based media law firm, explained to me that the alleged victim in this case has an obligation to report to police her allegations of serious criminal activity, as Szafranski did, so that police can investigate such cases and take appropriate action.
“It does not matter if the alleged victim’s account was relayed to the prosecutors in advance of her filing the restraining order because that is why she filed,” he said. “The prosecutor has an obligation to pursue criminal charges, including anything relating to the restraining order.”
But beyond that, the law is much more complicated. According to Duchossois, “There are a few red flags that would require action, which sometimes means questioning a person who has not reported the allegation in the first place. That includes, but is not limited to, whether the alleged victim has a lawyer with her.”
He also advises caution if the reporting party herself has chosen not to appear before a judge on such an alleged violation.
“If you are notified of a potential order by the prosecutor and you decide to go to court without your lawyer, just remember that the bar association bars attorneys from filing complaints for which they have not been or will not be properly disciplined,” he explained.
Duchossois explains that “other issues would also likely come into play — including the propensity of the alleged victim to comply with a court order or provide testimony.”
Those concerns have to be weighed when a victim does not appear at a bench warrant hearing, where the judge sets an initial or final bond that must be paid before the case is heard. Duchossois says that essentially “makes you an accessory to the offense,” because it suggests you have information that is relevant to the alleged victim, so that you know or have knowledge of their version of events, and you are not obligated to go on record in court.
For all these reasons, he concludes, a victim should be required to appear in court, giving an opportunity to testify, and to be assured of bail conditions that are reasonable, so that the alleged victim does