A state Department of Corrections probation agent knew that former Wisconsin Badgers running back Montee Ball was receiving court-ordered treatment and knew where he was receiving it, but waited until Ball’s probation was almost over before telling him it was the wrong kind of treatment from a provider that DOC hadn’t certified, Ball’s lawyer wrote in court filings.
DOC is asking a judge to extend Ball’s probation, which he received in 2016 for misdemeanor domestic battery and disorderly conduct convictions, because the agency says that Ball failed to complete a court-ordered domestic violence program or pay any of the restitution he was ordered to pay.
Ball’s probation was to have ended on Feb. 5, but a DOC spokesman said on Feb. 1 that the agency had “frozen” his probation until it decided what to do about the outstanding issues. A hearing for Ball is set for Feb. 26.
But Ball’s lawyer, Stephen Hurley, wrote in a court brief filed on Friday that DOC’s request to extend Ball’s probation is improper and should be denied. He wrote that Ball completed 41 sessions of alcohol treatment and five sessions of anger-management treatment, both through Connections Counseling, totaling more than 63 hours.
“Until the week before his probation was to expire his probation agent never informed Mr. Ball that Connections Counseling was not a provider of ‘certified’ domestic violence counseling,” Hurley wrote, adding that DOC failed to tell Ball that none of the 46 sessions he attended would count toward Ball’s court-ordered obligation. “The first time she told Mr. Ball that the counseling was not acceptable was five days before his probation was to expire.”
At the time of his sentencing, Hurley wrote, Ball wasn’t even told by anyone what was meant by “certified” counseling.
“It is beyond dispute, however, that Mr. Ball engaged in a significant course of counseling, all of it relevant to why counseling was made a condition of probation in the first place,” Hurley wrote. He wrote that Ball made a good faith effort to comply with the conditions of his probation.
Ball’s agent, Sarah Othmer, had also told him repeatedly that he could pay restitution at any time before the end of his probation. He has now paid it in full, Hurley wrote.
Ball, 27, of Sun Prairie, who also played football for the Denver Broncos, pleaded guilty in August 2016 to charges related to incidents with two girlfriends in 2014 and 2016. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
In November, Circuit Judge William Hanrahan, who sentenced Ball, told Othmer that Ball’s probation was to end soon and asked her to contact his office at least 30 days before his discharge date if she wished to extend or modify his probation. She requested a hearing on extending Ball’s probation two working days before it was to expire.
On Jan. 30, Hurley wrote, Ball met with Othmer, who told Ball “that all of his counseling was, in the opinion of the Department of Corrections, for naught.” She told Ball that anger management was not the same as domestic violence counseling, and that while she had been “under the impression” that Connections Counseling was certified, it was not. She admitted to Ball that she should have called Connections sooner, Hurley wrote.
Othmer told Ball that she was receiving orders from “people above me” and that her hands were tied, Hurley wrote, so she asked Ball to sign a year-long extension of his probation. Ball declined.
At Othmer’s office again the next day, Hurley wrote, Othmer told Ball that “there was a miscommunication” and that she took full responsibility for not knowing that Connections Counseling wasn’t certified. But she again said the matter was out of her hands.
Later that day, Hurley wrote, Ball was called to the office of Matt Allord, Corrections field supervisor, where he was given a notice of revocation. Ball again declined a request to voluntarily extend his probation, and Allord put an ankle monitor on Ball.
Hurley wrote that beyond his court-ordered obligations, Ball has spoken extensively in the media about his alcohol addiction and efforts to help others with their addictions, made mentoring visits to schools, volunteered at a food pantry, helped raise money for an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility and continued his studies at UW-Madison.
All of those efforts, “bespeak the effectiveness of the counseling he received, even though it wasn’t ‘certified,’ ” Hurley wrote.