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HomeBreaking NewsMilwaukee Man Accused of Stabbing Jail Sergeant Was Repeatedly Freed After Past...

Milwaukee Man Accused of Stabbing Jail Sergeant Was Repeatedly Freed After Past Attacks

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Ronell Hart, the former Milwaukee County Jail inmate accused of intentionally stabbing a correctional sergeant on a sidewalk near the jail and puncturing his lung, has been repeatedly accused of attacking correctional officers and jail security guards in recent years, yet the system kept letting him back out, Wisconsin Right Now has documented.

A review of Hart’s previous court cases paints a disturbing pattern of escalating violence by a felon convicted stalker who was repeatedly accused of targeting Milwaukee County correctional officers. Yet, even when he was accused of punching and kicking correctional officers in the jail, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office failed to charge him with felony battery of prisoners, which could have kept him off the streets longer. Instead, they charged him with a couple misdemeanors.

Enter Anderson Gansner, a former federal public defender appointed to the Milwaukee County bench by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last year. Twice, Hart appeared in front of Gansner for battering corrections officers/a jail security guard. He was found incompetent and “not guilty by reason of mental disease and defect,” and the cases were closed or he was given a “time served” commitment by Gansner. In one case, that’s because, by the time the case came to conclusion, he’d already served more time in jail than the commitment.

Gansner and prosecutors also could have sought to keep Hart committed under Chapter 51 laws, however, but there is no sign in the court records that they did so. The spokesman for Milwaukee DA John Chisholm did not return a request for comment. Neither did the judge.

On March 7, the Milwaukee County DA’s office charged Hart with attempted first-degree intentional homicide in the sergeant’s attack. Surveillance video showed him lying in wait before the attack, authorities say. The sergeant who was stabbed is expected to survive.

Hart’s tangled journey through the criminal justice system further underscores that there is not a sufficient system in place to deal with the criminally violent who are mentally ill. Just dumping them back on the streets, especially in a case with such dangerous, escalating behavior, hardly seems like a good option.

For the Milwaukee County correctional sergeant, it was almost a fatal one.

Chief Deputy Daniel Hughes said in a previous news conference that the attack occurred Tuesday at about 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of 9th and State, near the jail. The victim was a 14-year veteran of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.

The sergeant was approached on foot by the 41-year-old male suspect. “The man attacked the sergeant, stabbing him several times before fleeing on foot,” Hughes said in the news conference. “We believe it was intentionally done,” Hughes said, adding that the suspect was recently released from the jail.

Wisconsin Right Now has obtained two of the recent criminal complaints against Hart in Milwaukee County. They show that he received the time served disposition in January of this year.

On two previous occasions between December 2022 and April 2023, Hart was criminally charged with punching Milwaukee County Sheriff’s correctional officers. Yet he was free on the streets to stab the sergeant, records say. Two other times, he tried to bypass a security checkpoint at the jail, a criminal complaint says.

Hart, who was previously diagnoses as schizophrenic, recently filed a federal lawsuit accusing jail officials of violating his rights.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Ronell Hart Case #1

On April 15, 2023, Hart was an inmate in the jail. Multiple correctional officers began working with him to move him to another cell. He became “extremely resistant,” the criminal complaint says.

He punched a correctional officer in the face and then began kicking multiple correctional officers, the complaint says.

Multiple attempts to tase him were not successful, and a lieutenant suffered swelling in his right hand, it says.

The Milwaukee County DA’s office charged him with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct. He could have been charged with felony battery by prisoner. The DA also could have charged him with each assault count but did not.

What the system did:

The case was assigned to Judge Anderson Gansner.

Gansner is a former federal public defender who was appointed in May 2023 to the Milwaukee County bench by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

A doctor’s report was filed in the case. Both the state and the defense challenged the report. Gansner held a competency hearing. Gansner ordered Hart to be examined further by the state Department of Health Services. He granted a defense request to have Hart examined at an in-patient facility, not the jail.

We’re told that Gansner and prosecutors could have sought to commit Hart under Chapter 51, but he did not. Competency questions continued to wind through the court.

The defense asked that Hart be examined for mental disease or defect.

On Jan. 19, 2024, the court records say: “The defendant was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The Court ordered judgement of NGI. The defendant is committed to the Department of Health Services for a period of 180 DAYS , which does not exceed the maximum term of confinement/imprisonment that could be imposed on an offender convicted of the same misdemeanor plus imprisonment authorized by any penalty enhancer. This commitment commences on 01/19/2024. The defendant is granted 237 DAYS credit.”

On Feb. 1, an “order of discharge” was signed by Gansner.

We have reached out to Gansner for comment. The doctor was paid $1,875, court records show.

Ronell Hart Case #2

On April 5, 2023, Hart was cited for resisting an officer. The citation was dismissed on a prosecutor’s motion on Jan. 19. Court records indicate the prosecutors wanted to follow the other pending misdemeanor case above.

Ronell Hart Case #3

On March 1, 2023, Hart was cited for bypassing a security screening. Again, the case was dismissed on Jan. 19, on a motion from the state.

Ronell Hart Case #4

Hart was accused of misdemeanor failing to submit a specimen on Jan. 18, 2023. A criminal complaint was mailed to him, and he was given a “summons” to show up. He did not. A warrant was issued. On Aug. 15, the case was dismissed on a prosecutor’s motion.

Ronell Hart Case #5

On Dec 16, 2022, Hart battered a Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office security guard, according to that criminal complaint. The guard said he was “struck in the face” while working the security entrance of the courthouse. The suspect tried to bypass security and when the guard “spoke up,” Hart said, “Who are you talking to?” the complaint says.

He then punched the guard in the face with a closed fist two times and fled, the complaint says.

The complaint describes two other incidents. On Jan. 10, 2023, a deputy was dispatched to an uncooperative subject “who attempted to bypass the Criminal Justice Facility security checkpoint.”

He tried to flee, and the deputy learned Hart “had a similar incident on Jan. 7, 2023, at 10:30 a.m. at the Criminal Justice Facility security checkpoint.”

Hart admitted bypassing the security checkpoints on Jan. 7 and 10. He admitted to hitting the guard in the face in December, the complaint says.

The Milwaukee County DA’s office charged with misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct for the Dec. 16 incident.

What happened? The case ended up before Gansner, and competency issues were raised.

“The Court finds that the defendant is not competent and not likely to become competent. On State’s motion and due to the expiration of commitment, Court orders case administratively closed,” the court records say.

Ronell Hart Case #6

On the same date and for the same reason as the latter, Gansner closed a separate case for misdemeanor resisting against Hart.

“Case in court to address letter filed by WFU. Statements by parties. Both parties disagree with the findings of the doctor report dated 07-03-2023. The Court finds that the defendant is not competent and not likely to become competent. On State’s motion and due to the expiration of commitment, Court orders case administratively closed,” the records say.

Hart also has a series of older cases. Those cases are as follows:

Case #7: In 2020, he was charged with felony bail jumping in Marathon County. The case was read-in at sentencing.

Case #8: In 2020, he was convicted of felony stalking in Marathon County and received 6 months in jail. This charge could have theoretically allowed penalty enhancers in later cases for being a repeat offender.

Case #9: In 2006 in Brown County, he was convicted of disorderly conduct-domestic abuse and paid a fine.

Case #10: In 2000, in Milwaukee County, he was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and paid a fine.

 

 

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