Marshfield woman names city, two former police chiefs in federal lawsuit
By Mike Warren
MARSHFIELD – The attorney for a woman suing the city of Marshfield and two of its former police chiefs says “she’s got terminal cancer, and she’s bringing this lawsuit to try to provide for her children.”
That is according to Jeff Scott Olson from the Jeff Scott Olson Law Firm of Madison. Olson’s firm filed the lawsuit Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court in Madison.
According to the 22-page criminal complaint, the plaintiff is pursuing the civil action “in order to obtain compensation for the injuries caused by Defendant (Rick) Gramza’s intentional sexual harassment and stalking of the Plaintiff in the course of his duties as a detective, and then as the Chief of Police of the Marshfield Police Department, and for the deliberateindifference of (former Police Chief) Gary Jepsen, who learned of Gramza’s conduct, and yet took no meaningful action to protect the Plaintiff.”
The civil suit is alleging that Gramza, who turns 49 on Jan. 8, stalked, harassed and sexually assaulted the plaintiff from the time he was assigned to her domestic abuse case as a detective in the spring of 2011 until her cancer diagnosis in late 2019, while he was still chief of police.
According to the complaint, “At the time of these interactions, Defendant Gramza made it clear to (the plaintiff) that he knew she was on probation and he knew that if (she) violated her probation, she could be subject to three years of prison and five years of extended supervision. Defendant Gramza would mention to (her) that ‘eight years is a longtime,’ implying that he had power and influence over whether she served those eight years.”
“There is nobody on the face of the earth who is more vulnerable to exploitation at the hands of law enforcement officers with bad intentions than single mothers on probation,” Olson told Hub City Times in a Dec. 29 interview. “Imagine a woman with kids who made a mistake and got convicted of a felony, she’s on probation and she’s got a three-year prison sentence hanging over her head if probation is revoked, and a law enforcement officer who no doubt has substantial influence over whether her probation is revoked or not wants to pressure her into a sexual relationship. She is in a terrible situation. Anything she does risks revocation, and risks three years in prison away from her children.”
When she was 23 years old, the plaintiff was convicted of a Class G felony in 2005 for embezzling from her employer. She was placed on 10 years’ probation, later reduced to five, and requiredto serve six months in jail and maintain absolute sobriety as conditions of her probation. She was also sentenced to three years in prison and seven years extended supervision, later reduced to five, if she violated the terms of her probation and it was revoked.
“Accordingly”, the complaint states, “her probation agent and any law enforcement officer had tremendous potential power over her, because any report, true or false, that she had violated any term of her probation could lead to her imprisonment.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that “almost all of Defendant Gramza’s sexual encounters with (the plaintiff) occurred while he was on duty as a police officer, and almost all of (his) communication with (her), if notin person, occurred via his police department phone and email.”
The defendants – Richard Gramza, Gary Jepsen and the city of Marshfield – “will be waiving personal service of this complaint, and then they will have 60 days (from Dec. 29) to file an answer with the court,” according to Olson.
The case has been assigned to District Judge William Conley and Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker.
In a written statement, the city of Marshfield said, “The City will vigorously defend the City’s interests and has retained legal counsel to address this issue. As the City desires to protect the interests of the taxpayers, we will not take any action that undermines that effort and will issue no further comment at this time.”
Gramza, meanwhile, resigned his position as police chief on March 4, 2021, in the wake of misconduct allegations stemming from an unrelated case, in which an officer under his command accuses him of sexual assault and disorderly conduct—charges which he still faces in an open Wood County case. A conference call was scheduled for Jan. 3.
At the time of his resignation, Gramza had been a 24-year veteran of the Marshfield Police Department. He worked for 10 years as a patrol officer, before being promoted to detective in 2007. In 2011, he became lieutenant of detectives, and served in that capacity until May 14, 2014, when he was named chief of police.