ELKHART LAKE, Wis.—The Associated Press has published a curious thousand-word article that tells the story of a crime that was never committed. The name of the perpetrator of the non-crime, a local district attorney who was caught looking at porn, has now been dragged needlessly through the mud, a gaggle of other public officials have gotten involved, an employee lost her job, taxpayer money was certainly spent resolving the matter, and in the end a reasonable person can only conclude that it was all much ado about absolutely fucking nothing.
In fact, one wonders why AP reporter Ryan J. Foley expended so much time and “ink” writing this story in the first place, since he admits in the second paragraph that “Wood County District Attorney John P. Henkelmann was not charged with any wrongdoing," but write it he did and one can only assume that the story was meant to be a cautionary tale about some people’s flagrant ignorance of the law, especially when it comes to pornography.
However, it could also be that the AP bureau in Wisconsin is on a blind witch hunt for any public official caught having anything to do with porn, even if the alleged act breaks no law, because the article also mentions that it used the state’s open records law to gain access to a sheriff’s department reports and also emails between a Wisconsin Department of Justice official and the manager of the resort where the non-crime took place. Assuming there is no statute outlawing the abuse of the state open records law, maybe there should be.
The instigating event is innocuous enough.
“Sheboygan County Sheriff's Department deputies were called to the [Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake] after an employee reported that a hotel guest had been repeatedly observed viewing porn in the business room,” the AP story reads. “Deputies found Henkelmann looking at porn, but let him go without obtaining the video footage and left their report vague.” Henklemann was attending a three-day training conference hosted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
That’s it. The incident, such as it was, took place late at night, actually early in the morning, around 1 a.m. on the last day of the conference. No one else was present in the business room, and the employee, Amanda Cain, reportedly saw no other activity other than the porn viewing, but thinking the act of viewing the porn was illegal, called the cops, who, after determining that a crime had not been committed, left.
The story should have gone no farther than that, but instead, according to AP, “Several hours later, [Cain] sent an e-mail to the Justice official in charge of the conference hoping to tell ‘a really funny story about one of your guests.’”
The email was sent to Tami Dzikowich by Cain, who added, "It's inappropriate and too funny to not share.”
From that point on, the story takes a turn for the truly bizarre. According to the article, Dzikowich later wrote to resort management, thanking them for reporting the incident to the police, at one point saying, “Breaking the law is NOT above prosecutors.”
Despite the fact that she apparently did not know it was Henkelmann who had been observed, she also wrote to the resort manager, “Calling the police to your establishment is never seen as a good thing, but when someone on the premises is behaving illegally & inappropriately, we understand, and would expect, something to be done in the interest of the other guests.”
Where the idea came from that Henkelmann, at 53 years of age, had done anything inappropriate, much less illegal, is anyone’s guess, but at this point in the story, it appears as if Dzikowich’s only source for what happened that night was Cain, who shortly thereafter met the wrath of the resort general manager, Lola Roeh, who fired her a month after the incident for, according to Cain, “violating ‘guest privacy.’”
“[Cain] wrote that her supervisors worried Osthoff would be sued because of Henkelmann's ambition to be a judge,” wrote Foley, the AP writer getting to the bottom of this nebulous scandal.
In a later communication to Dzikowich, Cain, who apparently feels she has a score to settle, wrote that “it was odd she was fired when a ‘manager who downloaded the tape to her computer and was watching it with other staff for fun is still employed.’ Cain wrote she was promised help receiving unemployment ‘as long as I keep quiet.’”
But keeping quiet about what is unclear. According to every possible witness or individual even remotely involved with this situation, Henkelmann never did anything but view pornography.
“[Capt. Cory Roeseler], head of the sheriff department's patrol division, said deputies did not know Henkelmann was a district attorney,” wrote Foley. “He said he would have liked to seen more information in the report and would speak with [responding Deputy Shawn Splivalo] to see if he had any. He noted the department never received a complaint of a lewd act and had no reason to get the video tape.”
Foley quoted him as saying, “I'm assuming there was nothing going on beyond him looking at porn. It's kind of a 'tree falls in the woods' thing."
And yet, both Foley, the AP writer, and Cain, the fired resort employee, seem determined to create the impression that something untoward took place not only that night, but also in the aftermath. Foley even contacted the state Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, whose top aide told him, “Justice looked into the incident only to determine whether one of its employees was involved and should be disciplined. He said local law enforcement never asked for assistance.”
The aide added, "We don't have any insight into what actually occurred.”
That’s because nothing did occur.
Scratch that. A few things did occur:
1. Henkelmann chose to watch some porn in the business room probably because he was worried about watching in his room, where he should have been watching it! But then it would have been on his bill and who knows what hellish retribution would have come from that.
2. Cain, utterly ignorant of what constitutes illegal behavior, took it upon herself to call the cops instead of asking management what, if anything, to do; or, just notifying the guest that it would be best if he took the activity to his room.
3. Cain compounded her inappropriate behavior by then reporting the incident to Dzikowich.
4. Dzikowich added fuel to the fire by thanking the resort for reporting a crime that in fact had never been committed.
5. Foley makes a mountain out of a molehill by investigating this nonsense, and makes the reporting all the more egregious and suspect by also adding to the story irrelevant facts about another prosecutor who recently “sent text messages trying to spark a sexual affair with a domestic abuse victim,” and will resign because of it.
If the mere viewing by a prosecutor of sexual imagery is enough to cause a professional journalist to go to this much effort to expose an incident in which no crime was committed, no one was harmed, no professional ethics were violated, and no civil, criminal or constitutional issues are at stake, and no one at any point says to anyone, what the bloody hell are you doing, the only conclusion this writer can make is that we collectively have a very serious porn problem in this country, and it isn’t in the watching.
On the other hand, kudos to the responding sheriffs that night for acting with utter professionalism, and also to the general manager of the resort for getting rid of an individual who should never be employed in a position involving customer service ever again!
And one can only hope that the Wisconsin AP bureau chief takes another look at this story and what exactly was the real intention behind writing it, and also that Henkelmann—whose life was turned upside down for nothing—is allowed to finish out his career as a "law and order" prosecutor who knows what it feels like to be falsely accused.