A former Rock County sheriff’s deputy will serve 90 days in jail, much of that time in the Rock County Jail where he once served as a jailer, a Sauk County judge ruled Monday.
Judge Michael Screnock also sentenced Keegan J. Kelly, 26, to three years of probation in a domestic violence case in which Kelly assaulted a woman he was staying with at a Wisconsin Dells resort in February.
Kelly resigned from the sheriff’s office April 12, nine days after his arrest. His conviction Monday means he can never again work as a law enforcement officer because federal law forbids him from carrying a firearm, said his attorney, Jack Hoag.
The loss of his chosen career is a significant punishment, as is the embarrassment he has suffered, Hoag argued.
As part of a plea agreement, Kelly pleaded no contest to three misdemeanors—battery, intimidation of a victim and disorderly conduct—and to one felony count of strangulation/suffocation as domestic abuse.
The felony count was held open, meaning Screnock did not find him guilty, and if Kelly successfully completes probation, the charge can be dismissed.
But if Kelly’s probation is revoked for not following the rules, he would be brought before a judge for sentencing.
Also as part of the agreement, a charge of false imprisonment was dismissed.
The assault happened Feb. 12 in a hotel room after Kelly began playing “The Red,” a song by the rock band Chevelle that Kelly likes to play “every time he becomes violent” with a woman he knows, according to the criminal complaint.
Kelly told her he could avoid consequences for his actions because “all I have to do is tell the police that my girlfriend is psycho,” according to the complaint.
She said Kelly in the past had threatened to kill her or her children when she said she might report his abuse to police. She didn’t report the incident until April 2, after family members convinced her to do so, according to the complaint.
The woman recorded the incident, and Kelly can be heard saying “I am the one who is crazy. … I don’t know how to drink,” according to the complaint.
The victim spoke before sentencing, asking the judge that Kelly not be “let off easy with probation.”
She predicted he will victimize other women.
“All throughout that night, he beat me, mocked my cries and degraded everything about me,” she said.
“Keegan chased me around the hotel room. He choked me repeatedly, and he beat me, ripped the phone out of the wall,” she said. “He bragged he was a cop, so nothing would be done, as he threatened over and over again to kill me.”
Assistant District Attorney Emily Eklund called Kelly’s actions terrifying and appalling.
“A law enforcement officer is supposed to protect the public and uphold the law. Instead, he used his position to exert power and control and to intimidate,” Eklund said.
Eklund said Kelly has no criminal history, and he will never again be able to abuse the power of a police officer.
Hoag said Kelly has taken responsibility, and it’s rare that a person in his situation does any jail time.
“I’ve been through this enough to know that good people do bad things, and it happens on occasion,” Hoag said.
Kelly has been having a hard time finding work, and he is talking about taking a factory job as he starts to rebuild his life, Hoag said.
Kelly apologized to the victim and her family and to his family.
“I’m a good man with a good heart, and I’m just going to continue to better myself and just become a better man,” he said.
“The public needs to have confidence that our law enforcement officers will do their jobs fairly and without picking sides,” Screnock said. “I have to suspect it’s disconcerting to folks in Rock County to know a sheriff’s deputy was himself engaging in domestic abuse, domestic violence, to the extent that was described in the complaint in this case.”
Screnock ordered Kelly maintain absolute sobriety during probation and that he be assessed for alcohol and drug abuse and anger and get any treatment recommended in those assessments.
Screnock ordered Kelly to report to the Sauk County Jail on today and allowed him to be transferred to Rock County starting Sept. 3.
Kelly is eligible for work-release but not for serving his time at home on a monitoring bracelet, Screnock said.
As part of the sentence, Screnock ordered Kelly to have no contact with the victim or her family or her ex-husband, who works at the Rock County Jail.
Hoag said he had spoken with Chief Deputy Barbara Tillman, who told him the jail could accommodate that order.
Kelly still faces misdemeanor domestic violence charges of battery, disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property for a Jan. 1 incident involving the same victim in Janesville. He has pleaded not guilty in that case, which continues in Rock County Court.