Provoking a Breach of the
Recently, members of the Madison Common Council received what was described by some as being a racist and threatening email from a
Verona resident. The expletive-laced email was sent by Phil Mendel who was outraged about the study conducted of the Madison Police
Department. ICYMI, Mr. Mendel wrote, “Nice job blowing 400,000 on a pointless white witch Hunt you ******* liberal pieces of ****. I hope one of
these savages you defend busts your ******* heads open as they Rob & rape you.” Members of the Common Council and others were
understandably quite concerned by the content of the email.
Alder Shiva Bidar, who stated that she felt the email was pretty egregious and threatening added that there should be an investigation. The
email was then forwarded to Chief Mike Koval conveying concerns about the racially charged, violent and threatening letter. Koval indicated
that the Madison and Verona Police are conducting an investigation and went on to say that the content of the email was “clearly vulgar and
conveyed a specious message.” And while I agree with Chief Koval that the email did not contain a clear and specific threat to carry out any
violence, the message was perceived at least by some of the members of the council as threatening and abusive.
NBC 15 subsequently sent a letter to Mr. Mendel asking for a response or clarification of his email and received a response from him stating, “I
apologize for my sick comments on the city council. My displeasure with their actions in no way excuses my horrendous email. I am truly
sorry.” While the apology is a nice gesture, it does not atone for the harm that was done to those who received the vile missive. Obviously, a
bit more reflection before sending such an email would have served him better.
In my humble opinion, Mr. Mendel’s action provoked a breach of the peace. Alders were disturbed by the content of the email, and there should
be legal consequences, in addition to the apology offered by him. Wisconsin State Statute 947.0125 (2)(d), Unlawful Use of computerized
communications systems, states that whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor: With intent to frighten, intimidate,
threaten, abuse or harass another person, sends a message on an electronic mail or other computerized communication system with the
reasonable expectation that the person will receive the message and in the message uses any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggests
any lewd or lascivious act. The comments made by Mr. Mendel appear to fit this state statute and should be taken into consideration as a
consequence of his highly inappropriate conduct.
Members of the Common Council are elected public servants who work on behalf of the city of Madison, who work to make the city a great
place for all to live, work and play. Whether you agree with the study or not and the $372,000 that was spent to fund it, we need to be very clear
that in no uncertain terms this type of conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It’s one thing for someone to have these thoughts
floating around in their head. The rights to ones’ private thoughts are beyond the reach of any government, but when those thoughts manifest
themselves in a public forum, we must ensure that those individuals are held accountable for their actions and prosecuted to the fullest extent
of the law.