MADISON — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has dismissed a disciplinary complaint against former Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Zapf, finding that Zapf did not violate ethical rules in his handling of a homicide prosecution in which a police officer planted evidence.
The court found that the Wisconsin Office of Lawyer Regulation failed to prove that Zapf violated ethical rules.
In its decision, the court rejected the findings of the referee who oversaw the Office of Lawyer Regulation hearing on the complaint against Zapf.
That referee, Dennis Flynn, a retired Racine County Circuit Court Judge, had recommended that Zapf’s law license be suspended and that he be barred from acting as a prosecutor in the future.
Zapf had appealed the referee’s decision to the state Supreme Court.
The back story
The allegations against Zapf surrounded a 2014 homicide in which a Kenosha Police officer admitted planting a bullet and an ID in a backpack belonging to one of the suspects.
In its 47-page unanimous decision, the court found that there was no evidence that the planted evidence was not central to the prosecution, and that there was no evidence prior to trial that Zapf knew the bullet and ID were planted and not just “mishandled,” or that he knew the police officer involved had resigned because of the evidence planting allegation.
The court dismissed the charges and found that Zapf was not responsible for costs.
Zapf’s attorney Richard Cayo said the court’s decision was full vindication.
“We’re very pleased that they found the truth,” Cayo said.
“Bob Zapf has been an excellent district attorney, served Kenosha for over 20 years, and deserves the gratitude of Kenosha. I hope he gets as much press in vindication as he did for the accusations.”
Zapf retired in 2016.
The officer who admitted to evidence planting, Kyle Baars, pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office in 2016. He was sentenced to one year of probation.
The three defendants in the homicide that was the subject of the evidence planting complaint were all convicted for the shooting death of 20-year-old Anthony Edwards.
Joseph-Jamal Brantley was convicted at trial and sentenced to 23 years in prison.
The jury convicted him after hearing about the evidence-planting allegation.
Markese Tibbs, the man whose ID was planted at the scene, entered a plea to felony murder. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Brandon Horak also pleaded guilty to felony murder. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison.