RACINE — A former Mount Pleasant Village Board candidate was sentenced to pay $3,000 in fines Tuesday for misdemeanor charges stemming from an altercation with a Mount Pleasant police officer.
Racine Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher ordered Charles Haakma, 68, of the 3100 block of Meachem Road, to pay a $2,500 fine for resisting or obstructing an officer and a $500 fine for disorderly conduct — both misdemeanors. A $1,000 cash bond Haakma paid will be applied to the fines, leaving him owning an additional $2,000.
On Feb. 5, Haakma pleaded no contest to the charges. In exchange, a felony charge of battery or threat to a law enforcement officer was dismissed. On the felony charge, he faced up to three years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Walter Stern, Haakma’s attorney, said the state dropped the felony charge after body-camera footage of the incident showed “there really was no battery.”
“Correction,” Assistant District Attorney Dirk Jensen interjected. “The state didn’t dismiss because there was no battery, the state dismissed that charge after consulting with the officer, not because there was no evidence of battery. I will dispute that strongly.”
The charges stem from an August 2017 road-rage incident after three car crashes occurred at the construction-laden intersection of Highway 31 and Spring Street within minutes of each other.
At the time, Haakma lived east of the intersection on the 4700 block of Spring Street. Police said Haakma was agitated because he could not get into his driveway. He allegedly started yelling obscenities at a police officer directing traffic.
Officers, with assistance from Racine County Sheriff’s Office deputies, tried to arrest Haakma, but police say Haakma allegedly struck an officer in the face during the process. The officer was wearing a body camera, which was reportedly knocked off during the scuffle.
On Tuesday, Haakma denied the allegation: “I had no reason to hit him (the officer) and they certainly had no reason to arrest me and haul me out, body slam, haul me out of my vehicle, break my wrist, steal my glasses, which I never got back, and it continues, Your Honor,” Haakma said.
Before sentencing Haakma, Flancher called Haakma’s behavior “obnoxious” and “belligerent.”
“As a 68-year-old educated person with your background, shame on you,” Flancher said.
Probation proposed, rejected
Jensen described Haakma’s behavior during the incident as “less than polite or cooperative.” He believed a two-year probation term would be appropriate, so the Department of Corrections could keep an eye on Haakma.
“I don’t know if it’s just a problem he has with authority,” Jensen said. “There’s a long history here. I think it’s fair to say there is no love lost between most of those involved — the government entities of Mount Pleasant and Mr. Haakma — and that probably played somewhat of a role here.”
Stern said that Haakma has challenged Mount Pleasant government entities, but has always done it through the proper channels of the courts. He called his client “outspoken,” but said he has been punished in other ways, including losing his job at Manheim Milwaukee Auto Auction, 561 27th St., Raymond, as a result of the case.
“It’s been a punishment for him,” Stern said. “He’s gone a year-and-a-half and not had any problems with either the officer in this case or any other officer. I think that also says something.”
Stern said his client rejected probation in the case, pointing to Haakma’s lack of a criminal record, veteran status and history of volunteerism.
“He has given to this community, to the country and he’s done that with distinction,” Stern said.
Publicity in the case
Stern said the case’s publicity has been punishment in itself. “I don’t think it’s a publicity-type case and I don’t think Mr. Haakma is responsible for that,” Stern said.
Flancher said that Stern’s actions only exacerbated media coverage of Haakma’s case. Last week, Stern released a 12-minute, 34-second police body camera clip of the altercation between Haakma and a police officer during which Haakma allegedly punches the officer in the face.
The Journal Times obtained the video after Racine County District Attorney Tricia Hanson denied two previous open-records requests, one made in 2017 shortly after the incident occurred and another when Haakma took a plea deal.
“On the one hand, Mr. Stern indicates you have been punished through a number of circumstances already. And certainly, the publicity itself, he said, was a punishment,” Flancher said. “And yet, days before this hearing, Mr. Stern released the body-cam video to the press, so that everyone could see Mr. Haakma’s belligerent and obnoxious behavior.”
In the video, Haakma is seen yelling and cursing at officers. But before the alleged punch happens, the video turns to black as the body camera falls off Mount Pleasant Officer Christopher Huenink.
“This is not the type of case that has media involved, to be quite honest with you,” Jensen said. “I think that some of that might be what Mr. Haakma desires, is some attention.”
“As a 68-year-old educated person with your background, shame on you.” Racine County Circuit Court Judge Faye Flancher, speaking to Charles Haakma