A 30-year-old former state probation agent pleaded guilty Friday to felony misconduct in public office for having a sexual relationship with a parolee who had been under her supervision.
Meredith Wachtendonk had been charged with second-degree sexual assault by a probation officer, but Dane County Circuit Judge Julie Genovese accepted her plea to the lesser charge and sentenced her to 18 months of probation after the district attorney’s office and Wachtendonk’s attorney said Wachtendonk was not a threat to the public and her actions stemmed more from being “lovesick” and lonely.
“I’m so sorry,” a crying Wachtendonk told Genovese. “I never meant for any of this to happen.”
According to the criminal complaint in the case, Wachtendonk resigned from her position with the Department of Corrections after a woman accused her of helping someone under her supervision sell and transport drugs.
It later emerged that Wachtendonk told a friend and former probation agent that she had been in a relationship with a parolee, that she had rented a car in her name for the man to use, and that she knew what she was doing was wrong. Investigators later recovered messages between the two suggesting they were interested in each other romantically and that they arranged to meet at a hotel on Sept. 5, 2020.
State law and DOC rules bar relationships between probation agents or correctional officers and people under their control or supervision because of the power imbalance between offenders and those who oversee them.
Deputy District Attorney William Brown said the contact between Wachtendonk and the parolee was consensual and that Wachtendonk is “not likely to be a sexual predator” and “not likely to commit a sex offense ever again.” The maximum penalty for her offense is three and half years, but Brown recommended she get two years of probation.
Wachtendonk’s attorney, Jonas Bednarek, said that usually in cases such as Wachtendonk’s, it’s the public employee who asserts power to take advantage of someone.
“That’s not what happened in this case,” he said, describing his client as lonely during the pandemic and “lovesick.” He said she’s already lost several thousands of dollars after the parolee damaged the rental car and that while she clearly committed a crime, the man had manipulated her.
Still, in a victim impact statement, the man said he’d suffered “post traumatic issues” after the experience.
“I’ve mostly found myself not trusting figures of authority (mainly women),” he wrote. “I’ve developed trust issues with those around me whom I love.”
Bednarek dismissed the statement as “fictional.”
Wachtendonk said she’d been a mentor and worked with homeless children in the past, and that she cares deeply about injustice. But Genovese counseled her to avoid getting too wrapped up in other people’s problems.
“You really have to work on yourself,” she said.
As a condition of her probation, Wachtendonk will have to continue getting mental health treatment. Genovese is not recommending that she undergo sex-offender treatment.
From Platteville to the White House: Twitter responds to court ruling tossing out Wisconsin's stay-at-home order
Nick's on 2nd in Platteville
Iron Hog Saloon in Port Washington
Wisconsin last night
President Trump tweets support
The Great State of Wisconsin, home to Tom Tiffany’s big Congressional Victory on Tuesday, was just given another win. Its Democrat Governor was forced by the courts to let the State Open. The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2020
Gov. Tony Evers
I am disappointed in this decision, but our top priority has been and will remain doing what we can and what we have to do to protect the health and safety of our state. After months of unproductive posturing, I hope the folks in the Legislature are ready to do the same.— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) May 14, 2020
Bars rush to reopen
Blue Bar Quilts
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi
Rep. Robin Vos
I got rights
Surge in search for 'bars' on Google
Friends and Neighbors Bar in Appleton
Marvin Radtke toasts the opening of the Friends and Neighbors bar following the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to strike down Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 in Appleton, Wis. #coronavirus #WISupremeCourt #OPENWISCONSIN #COVID19 #SaferAtHome pic.twitter.com/SLi6qQYM27— William Glasheen (@WmGlasheen) May 14, 2020
A reminder from 1918
Abject stupidity instigated by Trump rhetoric, Fox News disinformation and far right FaceBook posts.— Diogenes (@WatchingYou2018) May 14, 2020
After Wisconsin court ruling, crowds liberated and thirsty descend on bars. ‘We’re the Wild West,’ Gov. Tony Evers says..https://t.co/z0JGOshfUK
Eric Holder: 'regular folks' will suffer
In invalidating stay at home order Wisconsin Supreme Court callously puts lives at risk. Republican legislature and justices now own impact of their actions. This is ideology/partisanship over law/good sense. A lot of “regular folks” will suffer. Shameful. https://t.co/V8GekFAJ7P— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) May 14, 2020