Killers get probation, but victims’ families want justice

Tammy Gass with one of her children. Photo courtesy Dave and Karen Mikalofsky

Is 90 days behind bars and three years probation appropriate punishment for killing an innocent mother of four? The surviving friends and family members of Tammy Gass say they are outraged at the prosecuting district attorney’s sentence recommendation for Tracy Kruzicki, who plans to plead guilty to a charge of driving with a suspended license and causing a death, a felony that carries a maximum 6-year prison sentence. Kruzicki has a history of driving violations, including two instances of driving without a license.

Tracy Kruzicki

According to information we received from close friends and family of Tim Gass, Tammy’s husband, and this report by WAOW-TV, Tracy Kruzicki has reached a plea agreement in which the defense attorney and prosecutor will recommend a a sentence with zero to six months in jail, and several years of probation, despite the felony charge and his long arrest history. Kruzicki is scheduled to be sentenced by Marathon County Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson this Thursday, August 1 at 2 p.m. on the second floor of the Marathon County Courthouse for his Class H Felony.

Dave and Karen Mikalofsky, close friends of the Gass family, contacted me at the Bike Fed to express their outrage at the plea agreement:

We were told that the DA is recommending 3 months jail time for this offense. As taxpayers and very close family friends, we are offended by this light sentence recommendation since it is clear to us that a law was broken, and a life was lost. Tammy was riding well within the paved shoulder and was wearing “hot pink” as described by a witness. Mr. Kruzicki was 22.5” outside his lane of travel. The road where the accident occurred is straight.

We appreciate any help in getting the word out regarding this light sentence recommendation. That Tammy’s kids have to grow up without a mother should be worth more than 3 months jail time.

Thanks Dave,

Karen & Dave Mikalofsky

Dave Mikalofsky hopes Bike Fed members, or any citizen concerned about justice, will call or email the District Attorney and Judge Jacobson and ask that they consider harsher penalties that more closely match Kruzicki’s crime.

  • Call 715-261-1111 to reach the Marathon County DA, Kenneth Heimerman
  • Call 715-261-1360 for Judge Lamont Jacobson.

Tom Held has more from the Mikalofskys and additional details about about Tammy Gass in today’s blog post on The Active Pursuit. Tom also details a number of similar crashes in which the victim on the bike was innocent, the person driving the motor vehicle was clearly guilty, but similarly lenient sentences were handed down.

So what is up with killers getting a slap on the wrist? I received similar complaints about lenient punishments just last week after Christopher Schneider, 24, of Fond du lac, was sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years of probation for a fatal drunken driving crash in which he hit and killed 36-year-old Eugene Dennis, who was riding his bicycle along County Trunk WH in the town of Taycheedah around 7:30 p.m.

Even though he had a blood alcohol level of .12, prior convictions for driving while intoxicated and witnesses said they saw Schneider’s vehicle suddenly veer right before he hit Dennis, he was still able to reach an agreement with Winnebago County Assistant District Attorney Adam Levin.  Schneider pleaded no contest to charges of second-degree reckless homicide and operating with a prohibited alcohol concentration, down from the initial charges, which were homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, homicide by use of a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration and homicide by negligent operation of a vehicle.

In addition to the greatly reduced sentence, Schneider was granted Huber privileges but was ordered each May to go to as many high schools as possible to talk about what he had done. Schneider’s license is also revoked for six months.

I contacted ADA Levin to get his reasoning, but he told me to request the court transcript. He said he made a detailed argument in court to explain his reasoning for accepting a plea agreement. I had to mail a check for $22.50 to get a copy of the transcript. I will share that here in a later blog post as soon as I get it. Failing to get a response from a judge or prosecutor today, I asked a couple attorneys who not only specialize in representing people hit while riding bicycles, they ride bikes themselves. Check out their websites, linked through their names, and you will see how committed these two attorneys are to defending the rights of people riding bicycles.

Dan Goldberg: “In my opinion, the moral of this story is we need to get a Vulnerable Users Law passed. I was driving in Illinois over the weekend, and I saw plenty of signs that said “Hit a construction worker, spend 14 years in jail.” That is a special law, similar to a vulnerable users law. These laws are needed because even if you catch a guy driving with a suspended license, you still can’t prove criminal intent.”

Clayton Greissmeyer:  ”In addition to bike cases I also do criminal defense.  I tried a case involving a woman who signed her husband’s name on a check for approximately $15.00 in addition to her own name.  The state charged her with felony forgery.  She had his permission in the past and he never told her to stop signing his name although they did split up (but were not divorced yet).  The bank never cashed the check so no one was out any money.  I tried to get the case dismissed multiple times but the d.a. and Judge refused and we had a jury trial and won it.  Long story short, if they put that amount of time and money into a case with no victim, why not try a case involving a human being who was killed?”

I will end with another quote from Tammy and Tim Gass’ close friends, Dave and Karen Mikalofsky:

I wanted also to state that we were told by Tim Gass, Tammy’s widower, of the sentence recommendation and of his outrage of it.

A multiple offender, willingly getting behind the wheel of a vehicle he has no license to drive that murders an innocent Marathon County taxpayer is being offered 3 months of jail and 3 years probation on a charge that carries a penalty of 6 years!! What is wrong with this elected official (the D.A.’s)??

The D.A’s own mission statement reads as follows:

Mission Statement:
The mission of the Marathon County District Attorney’s Office is to use all reasonable and lawful diligence for the detection, arrest and conviction of those who break the law. District Attorney Kenneth Heimerman is the head law enforcement officer in Marathon County. In this capacity, he and his staff work with the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department, the Wisconsin State Patrol and local police departments to ensure the effective, efficient and uniform enforcement of the criminal laws and the administration of criminal justice throughout the county. Each employee of the District Attorney’s Office shall adopt the highest standards of ethical behavior and professionalism.

The Marathon County District Attorney’s Office is committed to strengthening law enforcement’s relation with the public; enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Marathon County; and ensuring that crime victims be treated with sensitivity, fairness, compassion and respect. District Attorney Heimerman and his staff are committed to safety and justice for the residents of the county community.

I hardly think in this case they are anywhere near protecting the citizens of Marathon County from repeat criminals like Mr. Kruzicki.

Thanks so much for your time and efforts.

Sincerely,

Dave and Karen Mikalofsky

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

10 thoughts on “Killers get probation, but victims’ families want justice

  1. It is no surprise that there is no email address listed for the DA, but pretty much every other department has one.

  2. As a rider, I am, like other riders, disgusted by the gutlessness that seems to go with being a DA. Something to understand, though, is this DA is likely a habitually gutless person. He probably does not ever prosecute automobile fatalities with any vigor. I have had close relatives hurt by cars in cycle crashes, and other close relatives hurt in car crashes. In all instances, there has been no prosecution, no effort to punish the aggressors. In one car-on-car instance, the driver was going 100+ and the following crash resulted in months of intensive care. The result? A ticket. No court case. Law enforcement, legislators, and DA’s do not have the will to stop crazy driving. One of the best instances to illustrate this was when the little girl was killed in Greendale. Some top official, sorry I don’t recall if it was a DA or Police Chief or something like that, had also had his child killed while on a bike. Rather than being more upset, it made the official “ho-hum” and accepting of the case. It was almost as if to say, “I didn’t care when my kid was killed, so why should I care about yours?” As long as our officials and our neighbors keep viewing car violence as acceptable, and fail to prosecute in any kind of instance, they won’t make exceptions for bicycle riders. Sometime within a week or so, some parent in our SE Wisconsin will drive a car into a tree or something and cause injury to her own children, and nothing will be done about it. It’s unfortunately universal, so universal that it’s OK to harm your own children with a car, as well kill the mother of other children.

  3. The safety of bikers has never been an interest in Marathon County. (Just give them another hill and snow!) They’ve designed plans for street and road biking, and done very little. They have a couple good bike shops, but you can’t go very far to do a safe test ride.

    We don’t know all of the facts, but this Tammy Gass case indicates the people of Wausau – the “law-making” city of Marathon County – don’t care about bikers. It appears the DA’s office does not know the meaning of the second paragraph of its Mission Statement. As the Mikalofsky’s say, they are not “anywhere near protecting the citizens of Marathon County.”

    Bikers are citizens, Mr. DA. Bikers need laws, Lawmakers.

  4. I just got off the phone with the DA’s office in this case. They won’t let you so much as leave a voice mail for these lawyers. They said I could fax in something written so they can put in in the file (I assume they mean the circular file). I asked for an email address and she gave me one. Still, I have my doubts about wasting time on writing an email that can easily be ignored. Is there anything we can do that will actually make a difference here?

    • You have already made a difference by taking the time to make that call and send an email. I honestly believe every voice makes a difference. Every action like the ones you have taken move the needle forward. Yes it gets pushed back, but hopefully over time we make permanent progress.

  5. It is like this “if people get paid enough they will let people that kill others free”. It is not right however “if you have $$$$ and the right lawyer no matter how bad of thing that is done “60 days or less”. While those of us that do care about the community need to pay for this in our taxes. Innocent people go to jail while the guilty people “do community service and never go to jail”.

    • “if people get paid enough they will let people that kill others free”
      Pretty ignorant statement considering the accused in this case is indigent and has a public defender.Perhaps some more education before making a blanket statement would be in order

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