A Whitewater man whose parents say has severe brain injuries was sentenced Monday to three years of probation for an expletive-laden courtroom outburst during his July trial on domestic abuse charges.
Jeffrey S. McKenzie, 40, accepted an agreement Monday that called for him to plead guilty to some charges in a Feb. 14, 2016, domestic violence incident and the July 25 outburst, during which Walworth County sheriff’s deputies shot him twice with a Taser.
In letters to The Gazette and later to the court, McKenzie’s parents said the outburst was the result of severe brain damage McKenzie sustained from years of playing football for Whitewater High School and UW-Whitewater.
The agreement calls for McKenzie to report to jail on or before Jan. 13, but Walworth County Judge Kristine Drettwan ordered him to report by Friday. Drettwan sentenced him to 90 days in jail with work release.
McKenzie pleaded guilty to battery, misdemeanor bail jumping and disorderly conduct in the domestic violence incident. Town of East Troy police said McKenzie lunged at a woman, punched her on the ground and choked her, according to the criminal complaint.
McKenzie also pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and felony bail jumping for the courtroom outburst, which caused Drettwan to declare a mistrial.
According to the criminal complaint, McKenzie yelled at the prosecutor, “What are you, (expletive) stupid, you (expletive) (expletive)?” during a legal argument.
McKenzie later asked the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Matthew Leusink, if he had “ever played football” and said he had a “brain injury,” according to the complaint.
Charges of strangulation and suffocation, intimidation of a victim, felony bail jumping, and resisting an officer from both cases were dismissed but read into the record.
After the courtroom interruptions, McKenzie, who resisted deputies’ orders, repeatedly said he was not going to jail, the complaint states. Deputies eventually shot him with a Taser.
McKenzie’s family and friends submitted 11 letters to the court on his behalf.
Many were from people who said they knew McKenzie since he was a child. They praised him as a family man, saying his outburst was out of character. Some letters called him a role model.
“His constant, passionate smile and compassionate demeanor have been a hallmark and contagious to most all he meets,” one letter reads.
In their September letter to the court, McKenzie’s parents, Scott and Sharon, said their son suffered “numerous” concussions while playing football and five other known concussions off the field. They wrote that McKenzie was “severely depressed” that he cannot see his two young daughters.
Drettwan did not discuss McKenzie’s injuries much, however.
She scolded him for his lack of respect for the court system and for his “continued intimidation” of the victim in the case. She said he was a risk to the public because of his anger.
Town of East Troy police reported that they found the victim and two children crouching down and crying in one of the bedrooms, where they had gone to hide from McKenzie, according to the complaint.
Drettwan said a condition of McKenzie’s probation is that he cannot see his daughters without written permission from the probation agent and the children’s guardian ad litem.
McKenzie’s parents wrote that a neurologist, psychiatrist and psychologist at Northshore University HealthSystems’ brain injury clinic in Skokie, Illinois, had seen their son. McKenzie has been treated for symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, for two years, they wrote.
Research into CTE, a disease often linked to professional football players, is still ongoing. However, an official diagnosis can be confirmed only after death.
“We are hopeful that their specialists will be able to offer Jeff the help he needs to allow him to better manage his symptoms of this disease,” the parents’ letter states.