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Charges dismissed in Suring superintendent student search case

The judge said other charges might have been appropriate -- but not these -- and ruled for the defense
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 11:50 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 21, 2022 at 6:25 PM CDT
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OCONTO COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A judge has dismissed False Imprisonment charges against Suring’s superintendent accused of searching students suspected of having vaping cartridges in school.

Kelly Casper appeared in Oconto County Court Tuesday for a motion hearing. Her defense asked the court to dismissed the charges.

Hon. Marc Hammer of Brown County Circuit Court Branch 5, who was in Oconto County presiding over the case, said the state did not meet a probability standard for false imprisonment charges and he dismissed the six felony counts without prejudice, meaning district attorney Edward Burke Jr. can file charges again.

“In light of what’s in front of me, I’m going to grant the defendant’s motion to dismiss this criminal complaint without prejudice,” Judge Hammer Said. “Again, the DA may elect to file new or different charges but that’s his sole and unfettered discretion.”

Burke did not respond to our email on if he plans to refile charges against Casper.

The defense argued that Casper had reasonable suspicion to search the students and she complied with standards when it comes to reasonable suspicion. Casper’s attorney Corey Chirafisi said Casper did not intend to confine the students but instead moved them to a room to avoid embarrassment.

“Forget the strip search for a minute, she’s not charged with that. If she puts them in a room, to confine them to do something that she’s allowed to do, which is search because of reasonable suspicion. I think we’re done,” Chirafisi said.

A teen who was searched spoke in court, saying she was barred from leaving.

“Mrs. Casper told us that if we did not do this, and follow her to a room with her, while she searched us. That we were just going to get into more trouble,” the victim said.

Ultimately, the judge ruled that the prosecution did not meet the standard of felony false imprisonment and dismissed the criminal complaint.

Judge Hammer added that a strip search charge would’ve been more appropriate rather than false imprisonment.

“You’re the D.A. You get to make a charging decision. The jury will get to decide the guilt decision. But in terms of how the facts line up to me it was more than, certainly understand your position, to me, it was more than a search, it was a strip search,” Hammer said.

Action 2 News reporter Joshua Peguero was in the courtroom and said Casper’s supporters applauded when the judge made his ruling.

“At this time my office will be exploring an appeal of the court’s decision. A request for appeal would be handled by the Wisconsin Department of Justice,” says District Attorney Edward Burke, Jr.

Casper was placed on administrative leave. During a recent meeting, the school board accepted Casper’s resignation. It is effective June 30.

Article continues below the video

The judge dismissed all charges against Kelly Casper, who was accused of holding students against their will

Investigators said on January 18, Casper and a school nurse searched six girls between the ages of 14 and 17 inside a bathroom off the nurse’s office. Investigators say Casper asked them to strip down to their underwear. Casper told authorities she was looking for vaping devices and vape cartridges.

Several students reported feeling uncomfortable, violated, and not having a choice to say no.

On March 11, Casper’s attorneys filed a motion in Oconto County asking to dismiss the criminal complaint “on the grounds that said document fails to set forth sufficient facts which would allow a detached and neutral magistrate to conclude that probable cause exists for the crimes charged.”

The filing said the state must meet the following five elements to sustain a charge of False Imprisonment:

the defendant confined or restrained the student;

the defendant confined or restrained the student intentionally;

the student was confined or restrained without her consent;

the defendant had no lawful authority to confine or restrain the student; and

the defendant knew that the student did not consent and knew that the defendant did not have lawful authority to confine the student.

Joshua Peguero was in court for the hearing and explains the judge's reasoning and what's next for Superintendent Kelly Casper

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