Reality Check: Ads attack Happ’s handling of cases

Reality Check: Ads attack Happ’s handling of cases

A pair of attack ads are going after Democratic candidate for attorney general Susan Happ for cases she handled in Jefferson County.

The ads are being run by two different groups. One is by Republican candidate Brad Schimel’s campaign. The other is paid for by the political arm of the state’s biggest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. Each one addresses a specific case.

“Attorney Susan Happ argued for a lighter sentence for a five-time child molester at a day care center, calling them crimes of opportunity and urging he not be classified as a predator,” the WMC ad says.

“Asking the judge to go easy because a predator assaulted children in his own home,” the Schimel ad says.

News 3 finds both of these claims needs clarification. Susan Happ, when she was a defense attorney, not the district attorney as she is now, defended a 60-year-old client named Clyde Mattsen. He was convicted of sexually assaulting young children in a home day care owned by his wife.

Mattsen cut a plea deal, pleading guilty or no-contest to five sexual assault charges. At sentencing, Happ argued for a 10- to 12-year prison sentence and lifetime extended supervision. A transcript shows she did call the charges crimes of opportunity because the children were in his home, but she also called them egregious and terrible offenses. She also told the judge, “This is not a person whom society normally would classify as a sexual predator stalking children at malls or at parks.” But she did not argue that he not be classified as a sex offender under state law.

“Thankfully a judge rejected her argument, ruling the man’s crimes were the worst kind,” the WMC ad says.

News 3 finds this is true. A judge ultimately sentenced Mattsen to more than 142 years in prison for the crimes, calling his offenses “predatory sexual pedophilia of the worst kind” that would not be tolerated.

Mattsen served that prison sentence until he died earlier this year.

“Another child molester case sat for months while Happ finished pocketing $180,000 in a land deal with the molester, who is still on the streets,” the Schimel ad says.

News 3 finds this also needs clarification.

Happ and her husband sold a piece of property to a man named Daniel Reynolds in 2009, with payment on that property to go through 2013. Reynolds was accused of sexual assault in 2011 by his 25-year-old sister-in-law, who claimed the assaults happened when she was in fifth grade. Charges weren’t filed in the case until 2013.

The case ended in a plea deal for what’s called deferred prosecution in March. Documents show if Reynolds got a psycho-sexual evaluation and treatment, paid for the victim’s therapy and stayed out of trouble with the law for 12 months, he’d be charged with disorderly conduct instead of sexual assault in March of 2015.

The attorney on the case was not Happ, but an assistant district attorney in her office. Happ claimed she was not involved, but the case was handled by her office. A complaint was filed by the victim in the case with the State Office of Lawyer Regulation challenging Happ’s handling of the case, but she was cleared of any conflict.