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Two people who knew Janet Protasiewicz – her former stepson AND a long-time self-described liberal family friend of her ex-husband – told Wisconsin Right Now in recorded interviews that they heard Protasiewicz use racial slurs when she was a prosecutor in Children’s Court. Both men, Jonathan Ehr and Michael Madden, told Wisconsin Right Now that they personally heard Protasiewicz use the “N word” to refer to blacks.
Madden, Protasiewicz’s then stepson, said in a videotaped interview that she used the “N word” to refer to blacks who were involved in court cases while she served as a prosecutor in Milwaukee County Children’s Court, including the parents of black children and blacks accused of crimes.
We asked Protasiewicz’s campaign for comment at 10 p.m. on March 15. She has not responded. She has not denied using racial slurs despite being given an opportunity to do so.
You can listen to and watch the recordings later in this story. Both men said they heard Protasiewicz use the racial slurs in 1997, when she was married to conservative Milwaukee County Judge Patrick Madden. She was 34 years old at the time and an assistant Milwaukee County District Attorney. Michael is Patrick’s son. Ehr and his attorney father knew the judge and his family for decades.
In a separate audio recorded interview without Michael Madden present, Ehr, a former Milwaukee restaurant/bar owner and self-described “liberal,” told Wisconsin Right Now that Protasiewicz used the “N word’ in front of him to refer to blacks and also used a racial slur to refer to Hispanics.
“I think it was the “N word” and then I thought she said, I could have sworn she said, beaner, or something, beaner,” he said.
Asked again if he ever heard Protasiewicz say a racial slur, Ehr said, “I did.” He added that he did not “know what they were talking about at the time” because it was so many years ago. “I was surprised, and I don’t even know what they were talking about,” he said.
Asked who he meant by “they,” Ehr said, “Janet and the judge were talking. And I remember, Judge, I never heard anything bad come out of that man. Seriously, he was a very, very nice guy.”
Asked again, he confirmed that he heard Protasiewicz say the “N word.” We contacted Ehr a second time on another day and asked him the same questions again. Again, he stated that he heard Protasiewicz use the “N word” when she was married to Judge Madden, that he never heard Judge Madden say it, and that he doesn’t remember the conversation’s context.
Ehr said he didn’t remember the context surrounding the slurs because it was in 1997.
By “judge,” he was referring to Patrick J. Madden, who was Protasiewicz’s husband for less than a year in 1997 before the marriage crumbled into an ugly divorce battle. Madden, a now-deceased Navy veteran, was a Milwaukee County Judge for 24 years, and a respected member of the Milwaukee judiciary.
Madden, who was Protasiewicz’s stepson, told WRN in a separate videotaped interview that he heard Protasiewicz call blacks the “N word” who were part of cases that she handled in Milwaukee County Children’s Court as a prosecutor.
Specifically, he recalls her using the “N word” to refer to parents of black children in Children’s Court cases and also called them “lowlifes,” he said. At another point, he said she also referred to criminal defendants as the “N word.”
Protasiewicz’s unsuccessful application to be appointed a judge by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker confirms she was in Children’s Court at that time, and she was assigned there for 16 years. She handled very sensitive cases involving abused or neglected children and parents who were having their rights terminated, as well as sexual assault cases with juvenile perpetrators:
Ehr, a family friend of the Maddens for decades and a former restaurant/bar owner in Milwaukee, told Wisconsin Right Now in the interview that he heard Protasiewicz use racial slurs during the time frame that she was married to Judge Madden.
Ehr told Wisconsin Right Now that he is a “liberal” and not a political person. In fact, he is so checked out of politics that he said he wasn’t even aware that Protasiewicz is running for state Supreme Court when we asked him.
Ehr, now 65, said his father was also friends with Judge Madden, then 70, who was married to Protasiewicz, then 34, for less than a year. Madden was a recent widower when he married Protasiewicz. We previously reported on Michael’s allegations that he witnessed Protasiewicz physically assault his father. Read that story here. Michael and his brother, Dr. Mark Madden, also said she was a pro-life, anti-immigrant conservative when they knew her, which is the polar opposite of what she is claiming to be now.
She has refused to respond to any of the allegations. She has not denied them despite being given a chance to do so.
“My dad and judge were in law school together back in the ’50s; my dad practiced law,” Ehr explained. “We all grew up together. We were all Catholics,” He said Michael was younger than him.
“I sat down many times with my father and Mike’s dad and talked and all that. They were good friends,” said Ehr, who used to run the Ardmore bar at Marquette’s campus.
Of Protasiewicz, he said, after we told him she was running for state Supreme Court, “Maybe she’s changed and cleaned up her life. I hope so, if she’s running for Supreme Court.”
Michael Madden said Protasiewicz would talk “about her experiences in Children’s Court.”
“Janet had a lot of views based on her experiences in Children’s Court that would tell me that she was far from a, you know, liberal in that matter,” he told WRN. “She felt that, you know, a lot of these kids were, you know, the victims of parents not watching them and there were too lenient of sentences; that she didn’t like a lot of that stuff when she was here at this house. She specifically said, she worked on a lot of inner-city cases. All these people were having all these kids.”
Madden said he heard Protasiewicz use racial slurs in such conversations around the dining room table in the Madden home. He said that drinking was involved. Asked which slur, he said, “I don’t really want to say it. It’s the one that everyone knows.”
We asked which letter the word starts with. “The same letter that starts the word, nose,” he said.
“I don’t want to say it,” he said.
We clarified, “You’re saying that Janet said the ‘N word’?”
“I heard her say it, yes,” he said.
Asked how many times, “I can’t give you a number; it was many years ago. It wasn’t once.” He said she used the racial slur “in discussions about certain cases she was working on and different items that went on.”
Michael Madden added, “There were some discussions about, you know, the drug wars and things like that and the type of criminal behavior that was going on in certain parts of the city.”
Asked again if he heard her use the “N word,” he said, “I heard her use it describing some of the cases she was handling at the courthouse.”
“Do you believe Janet made racist comments?” we asked.
“Yes,” Michael Madden said.
“What were those?” we asked.
“She used a descriptive word for African-Americans,” he said. “It’s something an educated and decent person wouldn’t use. The same letter that nose starts with.”
Madden said his dad was “offended” by the racial slurs he says Protasiewicz used. He never used that word himself, Michael said.
Stay tuned. We have two more stories coming in this series. If you appreciate Wisconsin Right Now’s work, please consider becoming a reoccurring member for even $10/a month to help fund our news coverage. You can do so here.