Felony charges against Geneva Township officer dropped

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Kayla Bunge
Friday, July 30, 2010
— Walworth County prosecutors have agreed to drop felony charges against a former police sergeant accused of mishandling evidence because outside prosecutors thought the case lacked merit.

Robert B. Haase, 42, who had been a member of the Town of Geneva Police Department since 2001, has agreed to relinquish his badge.

Judge Michael Gibbs in June ordered that a special prosecutor handle the case because of a conflict of interest between the Walworth County District Attorney’s Office and Haase.

Walworth County referred the case to the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office. Both offices declined to prosecute the case because they believed the charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Walworth County District Attorney Phil Koss said he had mixed feelings on the matter.

“Rather than look like I was forum shopping, I agreed to drop the charges in exchange for his resignation,” he said. “This affected a significant case, that sexual assault case, but when two prosecuting offices say, ‘We don’t think there’s enough here,’ then I’m not going to keep spending taxpayer money trying to pursue it.”

Attorney Stephen Kramer said Haase already planned to resign.

“He would have found it unworkable to return to that police department,” he said.

Haase faced two charges of misconduct in public office.

He was accused of mishandling evidence and reports in an April 2008 sexual assault case and others, according to the criminal complaint.

Haase failed to document or secure evidence taken in the sexual assault case, including photographs and underwear, and failed to give prosecutors or defense attorneys evidence such as recorded interviews, according to the complaint. He botched the investigation, and the charges were reduced from felony repeated sexual assault of a child to misdemeanor fourth-degree sexual assault as a result, according to court records.

He also had more than 80 pieces of evidence from various cases, including knives, drugs and drug paraphernalia, stored in or around his desk, according to the complaint.

The Geneva Town Board recently voted to hire an attorney to review police reports and transcripts of hearings to see if the town could take any other disciplinary action against Haase.

Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale has nixed that plan because it cannot pursue action against a former employee.

“The town is fortunate to be saving the cost of another hearing and other legal expenses,” he said.

Haase was demoted in November for engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer and mishandling evidence.

He was accused of frequently meeting with a town court clerk during work hours. He also was accused of failing to properly package, label and secure evidence taken in a number of cases after another officer took over his cases while he was suspended.

Haase now could seek a job with a different police department.

Lauderdale, a police officer in Williams Bay, expressed his concerns about Haase’s future employment in the area or elsewhere.

“I’m hopeful that should he apply elsewhere, that agency will do an adequate background investigation,” he said.

Koss echoed those sentiments.

“I hope chiefs take this into consideration…” he said.

Kramer declined to comment further until the charges officially are dropped. He anticipated a judge would sign off on the agreement by the end of the week.

Haase is expected to resign effective Monday.

Last updated: 2:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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