State News

Candidate for governor wrote reference letter on behalf of sex offender

In 2015, gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Vinehout wrote a recommendation letter on behalf of a former Legislative Council attorney who was found guilty of felony possession of child pornography.

State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, just announced she is launching a campaign for governor. It’s not off to a great start.

In 2015, Vinehout wrote a character reference letter, recently unearthed by the Capital Times, on behalf of a former Legislative Council attorney who was found guilty of five counts of felony possession of child pornography. She was the only sitting legislator to write on his behalf.

In the letter, dated Nov. 11, 2015, Vinehout defended David L. Lovell, who was at the time accused of the crimes in question, saying “the allegations are completely inconsistent with the skilled expert I worked with for eight years.”

"I was shocked and disturbed when I learned of the allegations against Mr. Lovell,” Vinehout wrote in the letter. “I never observed him to engage in any behavior other than that of a dedicated professional."

Vinehout called Lovell a "hardworking, intelligent, persistent, dedicated public servant" and noted that he had shown "deep remorse for his mistakes” and "taken responsibility for his actions.”

In a statement emailed to the Capital Times this week, Vinehout did not apologize. Rather, she said that no one should find “anything they object to” in the letter.

"I was asked to write a letter to the judge about Mr. Lovell’s work in the Capitol and his job performance as legal counsel to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Higher Education, of which I was chair. I did so. I also wrote that I was 'shocked and disturbed when I learned of the allegations against Mr. Lovell,’” Vinehout said in the statement.

She added that her mother “taught [her] to hate the sin but not shun the sinner."

Alec Zimmerman, spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, called on Vinehout to “apologize to Wisconsin’s families for her poor judgment.”

"It is appalling that Kathleen Vinehout would abuse her platform as a public official to defend the character and excuse the actions of a man found guilty of possessing child pornography,” Zimmerman said. “Democrats statewide should disavow her actions.”

Lovell, who was convicted in June, was sentenced to three years in prison for each count of possession of child pornography.

Vinehout joined a crowded race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination Monday. 

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