Lawyer who spat on Black teen at George Floyd protest in Wisconsin charged with hate crime and felony

MILWAUKEE – Stephanie Rapkin, a 64-year-old Wisconsin lawyer seen spitting on a young African-American protester in a video shared on social media, has been charged with a hate crime and a felony. 

Rapkin was captured on video confronting protesters June 6 who were urging her to move her car, which was parked and blocked the progress of a march.

She is seen spitting directly into the face of 17-year-old Eric Lucas. She was arrested twice — for that incident, and again the next day while confronting people who were writing messages in chalk on the sidewalk outside her house. While being arrested the second time, police say, she kneed an officer in the groin.

That incident is charged as battery to a law enforcement officer, a felony. The spitting is charged as disorderly conduct, a Class B misdemeanor, but with a hate crime enhancer that raises the maximum penalty to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine — if prosecutors prove the action was racially motivated.

The battery on a law enforcement officer charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, plus three years of extended supervision.

Rapkin, who has been free on bail, is scheduled to make her initial court appearance on the charges July 24. It is unclear whether she has hired an attorney, and she could not be reached by phone Friday. Her practice focuses on estate planning and probate law.

Lucas’ attorney, Matthew Pinix, released a statement from Lucas’ family. It reads in part, “That disgusting mistreatment of our son is an egregious insult not only to him, but also to all that he is doing to change the inequity in our society.

“An example must be set by our justice system to ensure that acts like this never occur again. If we are to heal as a society, we must start by showing all those who are watching that this injustice cannot stand.

“Eric’s voice, and the voice of all those who have marched with him all over the community, will not be silenced.” 

Pinix said that while his clients are happy about the hate crime enhancer, they’re disappointed that prosecutors didn’t make the underlying offense something greater than disorderly conduct.

Video of the June 6 spitting incident was already spreading on social media when Rapkin was recorded the next day confronting Joe Friedman, who had been writingmessages chalk on the sidewalk outside her home. 

Rapkin tells Friedman, a college student home for the summer who was recording their conversation, that she spat at Lucas the day before in response to a physical attack and then demonstrated the supposed attack by appearing to shove Friedman in the chest.

“You just put your hands on me,” Friedman says in response. “That is assault right there. Wow, I just got that on video, ma’am.”

Friedman is represented by attorney Michael Maistelman.

“Given the horrific actions of Stephanie Rapkin at a time when COVID-19 is ravaging our country, we demand her immediate testing for both current and past infection and to publicly release the results,” Maistelman said.

The novel coronavirus is highly contagious through saliva, especially larger droplets of spit, Dr. Paul Pottinger, an infectious disease professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told USA TODAY earlier this year.

More than 110,000 people have died of the virus in the United States in recent months, according to a Johns Hopkins University Dashboard, as the nation reels from the health and financial impacts of the ongoing global pandemic.

Contributing: Jordan Culver. Follow Chris Bruce Vielmetti on Twitter: @ProofHearsay