Chris Rickert: Neither Solomon nor Walker has been charged with a crime

Chris Rickert: Neither Solomon nor Walker has been charged with a crime


There are many lessons to be drawn from the allegations of sexual assault lodged against Madison Ald. Brian Solomon.

One is that we continue to ignore the well-known dangers of mixing alcohol and amorous activity. Another is that people who go public with legitimate allegations of abuse deserve praise for putting the spotlight on a problem too often ignored.

Still another is that no matter how righteous a person may appear, that doesn't necessarily make him so.

"I stand up for victims," Solomon told this newspaper last week. "I stand up for social justice." Which doesn't, by itself, mean anything, he acknowledged when I spoke with him on Saturday. He was only lamenting how such "false allegations" don't jibe with his character.

I don't know anything more about Solomon's character than I do about the legal judgment of the Dane County assistant district attorney who decided not to pursue charges against him despite being confident the victim's allegations were true.

But one timely lesson to take from the Solomon affair is that his alleged behavior provides a telling contrast to the behavior that has spurred thousands of Wisconsinites to try to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Next month, residents will begin circulating petitions to recall Walker for using his party's majority in the Legislature to push a conservative political and legislative agenda.

Walker's style of governance arguably proves him divisive and tactically inept and, in some quarters, a puppet of a far-right-wing ideology that is bad for Wisconsin and the rest of the country.

But it doesn't make him a criminal, or even, for that matter, necessarily "immoral" in any objective sense or under any definition of the word not held by Democrats and others on the left.

In contrast, the incident involving Solomon was egregious enough to spur investigations by the state Department of Justice and the city Department of Civil Rights, for the DOJ to request charges against Solomon, and to convince the district attorney's office that he more than likely committed a crime.

The only reason he hasn't been booked is that the DA's office isn't sure it could prove his transgressions meet that highest of standards in the American court system: "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Now, to be clear, it matters that Solomon has not been charged with a crime.

But it matters that Walker hasn't been, either. Furthermore, so far as we know law enforcement officials are not investigating the governor, much less saying they are confident he did something illegal.

That could change if the John Doe investigation into Walker's associates gets closer to Walker. And if it does, I'll be waiting in line with the rest of the city of Madison to sign the recall petition.

In the meantime, it doesn't appear that recall is on the minds of Solomon's constituents, even as Solomon tells me he holds himself to "high, high ethical standards" and that bad behavior "should be taken seriously even if not against the law."

The question is whether most Madisonians feel the same, and are willing to act — or not — as a result.

Contact Chris Rickert at 608-252-6198 or, as well as on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisRickertWSJ). His column appears Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.


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