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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

Cartoonist’s prank might earn him a felony

With hindsight being 20/20, cartoonist Mike Konopacki isn’t laughing at the fake press release he sent the Capital Times in February, now that he knows his forgery of a state representative’s official document could cost him $10,000 and three-and-a-half years in prison.

The Dane County District Attorney’s Office is considering filing felony charges against Konopacki for replicating the letterhead of state Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, in a release forwarded to the Capital Times on Feb. 25 that led the paper to post an article on its website. It was taken down after 40 minutes

Reporting on the release, the article alleged that Nass, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. were pressuring the Smithsonian to remove posters from last year’s Capitol protests in Madison from the archives of the National Museum of American History.

Nass filed an official complaint with Capitol Police on March 8, which was then forwarded to the district attorney’s office.

The Capital Times suspended Konopacki, who freelances for the paper, for six weeks. He claims the article took his actions out of context.

“My intent wasn’t to make fun of the Capitol Times,” he said. “My intent was to make fun of Nass and share a joke with my friends.”

The cartoonist claims he created and sent out the release to satirize the cancellation of the “Art in Protest” show three days prior.

Sponsored by the UW-Extension’s School for Workers, the event was canceled after the school was pressured against hosting the event by Nass’ office, according to a story by the Capital Times.

“It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humor,” Mike Mikalson, a spokesperson for Nass, said. “No one has the right to issue a statement…with the letterhead of [another] individual. It does harm to the individual…to the public and media.”

According to Wisconsin State Statute 946.69, a person commits a Class-I felony if they “ assume to act in an official capacity or to perform official functions.” It is this law could be used to implicate Konopacki, though its application would be “nitpicking,” according to UW-Madison journalism and law professor Robert Drechsel.

“[This is] about someone who was angry—understandably—about something somebody did with his letterhead,” Drechsel said. “It’s hard for me to imagine a prosecutor wanting to put time into enforcing something like this in this kind of context.”

The district attorney’s office has not yet reviewed the police report, according to Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

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