Katoine Richardson’s arrest began with bail jumping suspicions. It’s the most-charged crime in Wisconsin.

MADISON, Wis. — Prosecutors suggested in court Wednesday that more charges could come in the case of Katoine Richardson, the man arrested during an altercation on State Street that resulted in a Madison police officer accidentally shooting another officer.

Katoine Richardson is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, being in possession of a firearm, causing substantial bodily harm/soft tissue injury to an officer while resisting arrest and three counts of bail jumping.

Earlier on Thursday, a Dane County judge reduced Richardson’s cash bond from $16,000 to $11,000 after advocates called for his release, saying police had allowed Richardson with a vague press release to initially take the fall for an officer shooting. A Madison police officer was injured when another officer accidentally discharged his gun, state investigators now say.

In cross examination, a police officer at the scene alleged that Richardson’s gun did in fact go off during the arrest. Investigators say he pointed a gun at police after a chase began; his attorney say he was attempting ‘suicide by cop’ and was struggling with mental health issues but did not shoot anyone.

But the incident began when police suspected Richardson of one of the state’s most common charges: bail jumping.

Bail jumping: The most charged crime in Wisconsin

Court documents say a police sergeant was watching surveillance footage of State Street before it happened, and recognized Richardson on the street. Looking him up, he saw Richardson was in violation of his bail conditions, which stipulate he couldn’t be away from home after 10pm.

The gun, which Richardson later said he was carrying because he didn’t feel safe, wasn’t discovered until police went to find Richardson and started chasing him down to make the arrest.

There isn’t much data surrounding the question of how many arrests are made exclusively for actions that lead to bail jumping charges, as opposed to cases where they’re added to an existing crime or cases like Richardson’s where police go to make a bail jumping arrest and the incident leads to a bigger altercation.

But what is known is that Wisconsin makes it easier than other states to rack up bail jumping misdemeanors and felonies. A Wisconsin Law Review found that in 2016, it was the most-charged crime in the state. In early 2020, the Capital Times reported on the history of the charge, and how Wisconsin had gotten to the place where prosecutors use it with such frequency.

“In some states, bail jumping is only a crime if you don’t appear in court for a hearing, since the point of bond is supposed to be to make sure you answer to criminal charges against you,” University of Wisconsin Law School professor Cecelia Klingele said, an expert in criminal justice. “But in our state, bail jumping can be used much more broadly.”

In Wisconsin, that means the charge can be used as a misdemeanor or felony (depending on whether the other charges for which the person is out on bond are felonies or misdemeanors) for non-criminal actions included as bail conditions. That includes being in certain places or out after a certain time, if a judge sets those conditions–in Richardson’s case, not being at home after 10pm.

Each of those can become a new felony–one that later is often dismissed in plea deals.

“That makes it a pretty powerful tool in a prosecutor’s tool kit and often we will see multiple counts of bail jumping charged along with new criminal conduct that’s charged,” Klingele said.

“Interestingly, not only is bail jumping the most charged crime in the state of Wisconsin, it’s the most dismissed crime in the state of Wisconsin. And the fact it has that dual status tells us a lot about the ways it is used here.”

Join Naomi Kowles on this Sunday’s For the Record for a full conversation about bail jumping charges and the role they play in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system.