Criminal Justice

Court upholds conviction of 'Making a Murderer' lawyer for violating restraining order

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Len Kachinsky

Len Kachinsky. Photo from the Winnebago County Jail.

A lawyer who represented a defendant profiled in the Making a Murderer Netflix series is facing his own legal troubles.

Len Kachinsky, a lawyer and former municipal judge, failed to persuade a Wisconsin appeals court to reverse his September 2019 conviction for violating a harassment order. The order had limited Kachinsky’s communications with his municipal court manager in Fox Crossing, Wisconsin, to those that were necessary for court functions.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals ruled July 29. The court said the prosecution comported with due process, and the conviction was supported by sufficient evidence.

Kachinsky had violated the order by hanging a poster near the court manager’s desk with an image from the Fox Crossing personnel manual, prosecutors had alleged. The section displayed had concerned sexual harassment, and the word “sexual” was highlighted.

Kachinsky testified at his trial that he hung the poster because the manager didn’t understand that he had not sexually harassed her.

Kachinsky and the court manager had a contentious relationship. Kachinsky was suspended as a Fox Crossing municipal judge in July 2018 when he was arrested on a felony stalking charge in connection with his treatment of the manager.

Kachinsky was acquitted of felony stalking, but he was nonetheless suspended from acting as a reserve municipal judge in July 2019 because of his behavior.

Kachinsky’s defense lawyer had blamed the stalking charge partly on his client’s quirkiness. Kachinsky had once popped out from behind a counter and shouted “Roar!” at the court manager, and he would occasionally “meow randomly.” One time, he sat behind the manager making cat noises until she left, she had testified.

The court manager had told Kachinsky that she wanted to keep their relationship work-related, but he nonetheless tried to discuss matters in their personal lives and described himself as “both the boss and a close friend,” according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court opinion suspending Kachinsky from reserve judge duties.

He continued to send the court manager emails, including one asking her to “hit the reset button” on their relationship and expressing disappointment that she had unfriended him on Facebook. Another invited her to a “beer or wine summit … to discuss the relationship issue.”

He also sent a November 2017 email to the court manager that said, “By this time next week some things are going to happen that will cause a lot of fire and fury at the Municipal Building. No, I am not resigning. Just be psychologically prepared. Have a good weekend.” He giggled when the police chief asked him about the email, according to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Kachinsky had represented Brendan Dassey, who was convicted of helping his uncle kill a woman, despite questions about the confession that he gave at age 16. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the case in 2018.

Hat tip to the Appleton Post-Crescent and WBAY, which had coverage of the July 29 opinion.

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