Judge rejects plea agreement in Brown County hate crime case
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A jury trial is set for a former Green Bay Correctional Institution officer after a judge declined to accept a plea agreement in a hate crime case.
Shane Nolan appeared in Brown County Court Tuesday for a plea hearing on charges of Substantial Battery - Intend Bodily Harm (Hate Crime), a Felony, and Disorderly Conduct (Hate Crime). a misdemeanor. The proposed plea agreement would have Nolan admitting to responsibility for three misdemeanors. That would reduce a potential maximum jail or prison sentence.
Judge Kendall Kelley rejected the deal and set a jury trial for Feb. 15. Nolan will stand trial on the original charges with hate crime modifiers. The courtroom was packed with supporters of victim Dessiray Koss and members of the LGBTQ+ community,
Nolan is accused of throwing Koss into a fire pit during a bonfire party at her home on July 3, 2021. During the bonfire, Koss said Nolan, “unprompted”, called her a homophobic slur, then grabbed her by the ribs and picked her up before throwing her into the fire.
When she crawled out of the pit, the police report states Koss and Nolan got into a physical altercation where Nolan allegedly choked Koss.
When they were separated, Nolan walked away and left the property.
Koss was later taken to the hospital where an officer noticed Koss “had her left arm wrapped in clear plastic wrap, and her hands had a black substance on them, that I recognized to be similar in appearance to ash.”
Koss later said she was thrown into her fire pit. The officer wrote it was “apparent” Koss was in pain.
During an interview, Nolan said he was drunk during the alleged incident and that he had been blacking out, only to remember being hit by several people. He told the officer he did not remember anyone being thrown into the fire and denied attacking Koss or using a homophobic slur.
Brown County District Attorney David Lasee was in support of offering the plea agreement. “I don’t know that we would be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was motivated by her sexual orientation as opposed to motivated by drunken, stupid, inappropriate behavior on the part of the defendant so that is the reason for the modification the state proposes here today,” Lasee said.
Nolan’s attorney said his client was ready to take the plea.
“My client wants to accept responsibility, he wants to move forward with this, I think as everyone does. I would ask the court to adopt it so he can move forward with his life, the victim can move forward with her life, and he can receive the penalty he is going to receive,” said Clarence Duchac.
A representative from the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Diverse and Resilient spoke to the court to ask the case go to trial. Nick Ross asked the court to not go forward with the plea deal.
“The victim did not consent to plea agreement and two, we do definitely believe this would go against greater public interest because this extreme form of violence would present safety concerns to general public, especially LGBTQ community,” Ross said. “One of the facts of the case is the defendant thought the victim was a man before the violence occurred, so that is important to note.”
Supporters explained why it was important to them for the case to go to trial.
“The victim relives what happened every single day. So we’re going to support them by making sure all of the victim’s rights were not violated as they have been already. We will work with attorneys and we will work with the Department of Justice and the FBI to make sure that we are able to prosecute this as the victim wants to the fullest extent of that law,” said Kathy Flores, Director, Diverse and Resilient.
Flores continued, “This also impacts the entire community LGBT-- any time there’s a act of hate violence, whether it’s against somebody who’s black, indigenous other people of color or LGBTQ. It sends a message to all of us that we’re not safe in this community. And we need to send a message that is not tolerable in this state that’s not tolerable in this county. And we’re here to fight that.”
The non-profit says Koss is still recovering from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree burns and will not only deal with physical scars for the rest of her life, but also carry emotional and mental trauma.
Holly Koss, the victim’s sister, released a statement stating, “A person who commits a crime so terrible in which they hold a person in a fire because of their sexual orientation has some serious issues that will now cost his victim trauma for the rest of her life. This is a hate crime and sixty days in jail is not enough justice for the victim when originally the charges included a felony and hate crime modifiers. Accepting this plea will be a horrific choice and sends a terrible message to victims everywhere.”
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