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Waunakee woman pleads guilty to riot-related looting, placed in deferred prosecution

Waunakee woman pleads guilty to riot-related looting, placed in deferred prosecution

A Waunakee woman who was among the first charged after riots Downtown caused widespread property damage and looting in May was placed in a deferred prosecution program after she pleaded guilty Wednesday to burglary and criminal damage to property.

"I believe that progressive, 21st century police departments should have body-worn cameras," Chief Shon Barnes tells our podcasters just a few weeks into his new job as Madison's top cop. Madison is one of the few cities of its size without cameras on patrol officers and one of only a third of police agencies in Wisconsin that haven't embraced the technology. Uniform cameras provide transparency and accountability following controversial police encounters, which helps builds public trust. Yet Barnes stresses that whether to equip his officers with the devices is the community's decision, not his. "It's important to note that body-worn cameras have evolved tremendously from cameras that automatically turn on when your blue lights turn on, automatically turn on when your gun is unholstered, and there are cameras now that are attached to a fit bit," he says. "So you wear the fit bit so that the program knows what your resting and normal heart rate is, and if your heart rate is elevated, it turns your body-worn camera on." Milfred and Hands praise Barnes for his emphasis on technology, including better use of data. Barnes also talks about waiters and waitresses making good police recruits, and his desire to expand recruitment efforts into churches and other places to help diversify the force.

Gabrielle M. Kokesh, 20, pleaded guilty to both charges she faced for taking part in a break-in at August, 414 State St., and for breaking a window at Power Nine Games, 341 State St., on May 30.

Gabrielle M. Kokesh


The riot followed a day of peaceful demonstrations over the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Under a plea agreement between Assistant District Attorney William Brown and Kokesh’s attorney, Jonas Bednarek, Kokesh pleaded guilty to both charges but convictions were not entered. Instead, the case will be suspended while Kokesh takes part in a deferred prosecution program offered by the Dane County District Attorney’s Office.

Under that program, for which contracts typically last for a year, Kokesh would have to take part in any programs ordered by the program and not commit any new crimes. Once she has completed the program, she can seek formal dismissal of the charges.

But if Kokesh fails to complete the program, she would return to court to be formally convicted and sentenced.

“The person whose actions decide how all of this is going to turn out is you,” Circuit Judge Ellen Berz told Kokesh during a hearing held by video conference. Of the requirement that Kokesh commit no new crimes, Berz said, “that should be a ‘duh.’”

While in the program, conditions of Kokesh’s bail still stand. She is banned from the State Street and Langdon Street areas and is barred from drinking alcohol.

Kokesh is one of more than 50 people charged with felony crimes for acts that took place during riots that happened the weekend of May 30, June 23 and 24 and Aug. 25, over Floyd’s death and later the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Many others face misdemeanor charges.

Keeping track: Over 50 charged with felonies related to vandalism and looting

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