The embattled town of Campbell police chief pleaded no contest Friday to a misdemeanor that accused him of using a tea party activist’s information online during work hours to retaliate for a federal lawsuit brought against him.

“I understand that there is a political context to this case, but my view of it is not political,” Monroe County Circuit Judge David Rice said. “I view it as a criminal case.”

After months of conflict between the town, police and tea party activists, Chief Tim Kelemen in January and March used La Crosse tea party activist Greg Luce’s name, address, phone number and email address to create accounts on pornographic, dating and government health insurance websites.

Prosecutors brought a charge of unlawful use of computerized communication systems against Kelemen, but it will be dismissed in two years if the chief avoids new crimes, continues counseling and completes 40 hours of community service under the terms of a diversion agreement reached in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

Luce told the judge he believes Kelemen is guilty of more serious charges for actions that constitute more than “a joke.”

“I don’t believe a diversion agreement is fair in this situation,” Luce said. “My reputation and my civil rights have been seriously harmed, and the criminal is going to again get a slap on the wrist by the La Crosse court system.”

Special prosecutor Kevin Croninger called Kelemen’s conduct “juvenile, illegal and inappropriate.”

“The members of the public expect more from law enforcement,” he said. “Anytime someone in law enforcement is engaged in this type of activity, it makes you wonder about who you can trust.”

Still, the prosecutor said the charge levied against Kelemen was appropriate and that he could not prove more serious charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

Croninger said the resolution reached in the case is not intended to minimize the chief’s actions but that it is fair for someone who has no criminal record, enrolled in counseling and is not a threat while undergoing treatment.

The context of the chief’s conduct isn’t an excuse, but it is important for the court to understand, said his attorney, Jim Birnbaum.

Birnbaum contends tea party members harassed town and police officials for months after board members in October passed a local ordinance prohibiting speech-related behavior on an Interstate 90 pedestrian overpass.

The chief viewed the activity as a public safety risk; Luce and another tea party member argued the ordinance trampled on their rights and responded with a federal lawsuit. The amended suit accuses Kelemen of violating Luce’s right to petition without retaliation, invasion of privacy and civil identity theft.

The department was inundated with threatening emails and phone calls after the ordinance, leading the agency to shut off its phone for weeks, Birnbaum said.

There is no evidence to show Luce sent the department harassing emails, Croninger said.

“Mr. Kelemen’s anger was directed in the wrong spot. I believe he was under a significant amount of pressure and that pressure got to him,” Croninger said. “He took that out on Mr. Luce, and he shouldn’t have.”

Birnbaum called the chief’s conduct “foolish” and done in frustration.

“He regrets doing that. It was wrong on all kinds of fronts,” Birnbaum said. “No one is harder on him than himself.”

The chief did not make a statement during the hearing.

“Mr. Kelemen, your reaction to what happened in your township and your department can best be characterized as juvenile. It is the kind of thing that you expect high school kids to do to get revenge,” the judge told him. “It’s misplaced. It’s aimed at one person who isn’t necessarily the person who is causing these problems, and it’s also a violation of your duty as an officer.”

The Campbell board placed Kelemen on paid leave June 12 after hearing from community members that the chief had lost credibility. La Crosse attorney Frank Doherty is conducting an internal investigation.

Since the town does not have a police and fire commission, state statute allows the board to appoint a panel of outside representatives to consider discipline against Kelemen, depending on the results of Doherty’s investigation.

“Given the collateral legal proceedings, the people I want to interview and their attorneys are approaching things cautiously, and that is appropriate,” Doherty said Friday. “This means that it will take some time to gather all of the relevant information, finish the witness interviews and complete the investigation.”

Anne Jungen covers law enforcement and the criminal justice system in La Crosse County. She joined the Tribune reporting staff in December 2005. You can contact her directly at ajungen@lacrossetribune.com or 608-791-8224.

(34) comments

scrutiny

I think the prosecutor and judge handled this case reasonably on the criminal end. The civil case against the ordinance in question and possible harassment and retaliation against complainant will evidently go forward. The law in question may very well be found unconstitutional but subsequent personal behavior on both sides was ridiculously juvenile. grow up

scrutiny

Obviously this situation spun out of control. The ordinance banning overpass demonstrations and signage was well intentioned- it very well distract drivers on the freeway gaping at displays rather than the road- they have to take their eyes off the road to see whats going on.
The legality of the ordinance should have been settled by the courts not the police chief and tea party activists. This is frat boy stuff on part of police chief- unprofessional to say the least but did Dept get threats? wow that's serious stuff too? The drama continues in the wild west of town of Campbell. typical

Unity83

Well that illegal ordinance is in direct violation of the Bill of Rights, which happens to be the supreme law of the the land. Ordinances and laws alike must follow that, not go against it. Don't like it? Move, or demolish the catwalk and walk around.

realtorick

Because of his position Kelemen needs to be released.

GrandpaS

The judge was right: This was juvenile behavior on both their parts (Luce and Kelemen.) Some fatherly advice to both: Grow up. When Luce held his "Impeach Obama" rally on the overhead, hadn't the ordinance against that already been passed? What fine or other punishment did he and his participants get? That's not a sarcastic question, it's a serious question. If they got no punishment for breaking the law, then Luce has nothing to complain about.

Buggs Raplin

Gramps, Luce is not on trial here; the bridge protests are an irrelevancy to the Chief's crimes.

Nugget

He should be on trial. He (luce) is a P O S. His reputation is a joke! He's just a typical taa bagger bully. You defending him makes you an even bigger idiot.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast
668 The Neighbor of the Beast


I am thinking the Tribune needs to look at the history of all your comments?

http://lacrossetribune.com/users/profile/nugget/

668 The Neighbor of the Beast
668 The Neighbor of the Beast


That's funny...I don't recall the judge admonishing the victim of Tim's juvenile behaviour. That would be ... juvenile.

Tickets were issued to one who unfurled an American flag in front of Kelemen in order to have standing in a lawsuit. The four others were issued tickets on the overpass when around 100 people rallied in sub-zero weather. Two were fined for holding an American flag, one was fined for holding a Christian cross and Greg was fined but I do not think he was holding anything, he was just advising everyone that they did not have to produce an ID, flustering the Keystone Campbell cops.

All court dates for these tickets will be delayed until after the ruling on the constitutionality of the ordinance.

tower
tower

Luce was on the news last night whining about the agreement and how his reputation was soiled by this. Reputation? He has a reputation? I think he took care of that one long ago.

Sal Yodada
Sal Yodada

That's kind of what I was thinking....

This may have actually improved his reputation within the Tea Party based on their defense and support of Luce...the rest of us already knew he visited those types of websites anyway.

Monteee
Monteee

Funny thing about the rat race: If you win, or if you gain status, you're still a rat.

tower
tower

I knew we could get along just fine Sal.

Buggs Raplin

Good job in distracting the readers from relevancy. Typical tower.

tower
tower

What is relevant about some grown man acting like a spoiled 12 yr old? The Chief and Luce both need to grow up. And before you give me this Luce is standing up for liberty garbage let me point out that this clown and the other morons of the teatards sent threatening emails to the chief and the cops. For what? For doing their jobs. Apparently you and they think that obeying laws are for other people but you all have a higher calling. Kind of like your reaction to the illegal kids.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast
668 The Neighbor of the Beast


“Mr. Kelemen’s anger was directed in the wrong spot. I believe he was under a significant amount of pressure and that pressure got to him,” Croninger said. “He took that out on Mr. Luce, and he shouldn’t have.”

Comment deleted.
Goodspeed

You know what you are a real piece of work. The entire tea party movement isnt crazy but you sure are. You and your pals harrassed the heck out of Kelemen and his staff as even your own videos dictate. What is wrong with you??? Congrats you mindless, immature, horrifically bad person. You got him to take the bait. What he did was wrong for a person in office but what you and your pals do is way more disgusting as human beings. You took a compromising picture in a courtroom with your cell and posted it online?? What is your mental age? 11? Like chief Kelemen I generally have Republican views but you sir, make the tea party look like a bunch of nuts. You and your pals are not right. You represent everything that is wrong with America and the world.

Buggs Raplin

The judge nailed it when he said the case was a criminal one, not a political one. The bridge protest and the so-called harassment is irrelevant. Birnbaum very cleverly says it's not an excuse, but then offers it up as an excuse in the same sentence. Why the chief wasn't charged with obstruction is proof of the double standard. I once supervised someone placed on probation for Obstruction because she gave her sister's name during a traffic stop as she was driving without a license. The chief lied to investigators. It's there on the video for all the world to see. The double standard.-Chip DeNure aka Buggs Raplin

tower
tower

He also wondered if these two clowns were 15 yr olds. I think he said they acted like children.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast
668 The Neighbor of the Beast

That's funny...I don't recall the judge admonishing the victim of Tim's juvenile behaviour. That would be ... juvenile.

GOOD SOLDGER

It,s somewhat finally over, at the end game, I hope he retains his job.

668 The Neighbor of the Beast
668 The Neighbor of the Beast


Thank you for signing up just to only post in Tim Kelemen stories. How does it feel to be a badge polisher?

Tim obviously can not handle the job of a small town police chief. He has been getting pshychological assistance and has been taking medications to alter the chemicals in his brain.

This being the case, he should not wear a badge or carry a gun.

Maybe he can get a job at superman's "restaurant", I hear his carnie stand could use another corn dog cooker.

justpat

First of all, I think the protesting on the bridge is a ridiculously dangerous thing to do. It's just as ridiculous as continuing to pay the crooked police chief. Pretty scary to know that your police chief acts in such a manner when he feels he's been unjustly treated. Just keep investigating while he sits back and takes it easy-laughing all the way to the bank!

The Local Observer

Is it a, "given", that Birnbaum represents/will represent every possible dirt-bag employee that gets in trouble in the immediate La Crosse area?

Are the people that work for Birnbaum able to do whatever they feel like doing while working for him?

Tim Russell
Tim Russell

Apparently you were on the losing side sometime in the past. Is the axe sharp enough yet?

Lefty

You might be accused of slander. Eventhough you are obviously just jealous.

Condor Kid

Where's the disorderly conduct charge? He's getting off easy and still being paid! Can't wait for guys like him to save the day.

YGBK

Only government employees get paid vacations for messing up... Private sector lose their job or go without pay.

Veritas

A key detail she forgot to mention is that Kelemen admitted to the judge that he has been in psychological treatment since December, and has been taking psychotropic meds.

truth_hurts
truth_hurts

Another key detail she forgot to cover is why the Chief was not charged with obstruction for lying.

Tim Russell
Tim Russell

And that is relevant exactly how?

YGBK

After ever having taken psychotropic drugs, your reliability as a witness is greatly harmed. It also makes it more difficult to pass a federal background check to buy a gun.

Melvin Bizquee
Melvin Bizquee

Kudos to the Stoddard teabagger for driving ten miles the Town of Campbell just to stir up chaos in that town's police department. Every French Island resident who will see his property taxes go up because of Luce's inane circus is a happy camper! To yesterday's I-90 dump truck driver for vindicating Chief Kelemen, no kudos. Luce's distracted-driver highway antics won't be a win-win for everybody!

truth_hurts
truth_hurts

You're a troll.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.