DNA Collected from Stamp Leads to Felony Charge
DNA taken from a 9-cent stamp on a threatening letter sent to Judge Juan Colás of Dane County was used to issue a felony charge against the profile of an unidentified person, charging that person with threatening a judge who had just found the public worker law known as Act 10 to be unconstitutional. The charge was filed this month just before expiration of the six-year statute of limitations.
The practice of charging unidentified suspects based on their DNA profiles have been common for the past few decades. This allows a charge to be on file before the statute of limitations expires.
“If you don’t stop the clock from ticking, there’s nothing you can do,” said Ted Hunt, an assistant prosecutor who specializes in DNA evidence. “It’s too late.”
Kansas City police spokesman Capt. Rich Lockhart explained, “Now, after all the hard work put into a case, someone will be held accountable for that. Whether it’s now or 25 years from now.”
The handwritten threat was made after the judge struck down a collective bargaining law indicating it infringed the free speech rights of public employees who choose union membership. The Wisconsin Supreme Court later overturned the judge’s decision. The writer, evidentially irked by the decision, said, “Justice—you sir are nothing but an obstruction to the law—you sir are expendable.”
Included in the envelope was a magazine advertisement for Fixodent denture adhesive with the threatening message “missing teeth?” The writer continued, “Sometimes radical steps are required to repair our laws + our idiots sitting on a bench supposedly dispensing justice.”
The message was delivered to the Medicaid fraud unit of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, where Colás had worked prior to taking his current judicial post. A previous letter sent to Colás at the unit included an article about two politicians killed in Mexico and the message, “We question what happens to people in Mexico who claim to be judges! Notice the finality that dissent brings in your country — Don’t push — we have a different response! Lots of luck. This is what democracy looks like—when you give it to Mexicans Hey!”
Colás was born in Colombia to Spanish parents and his family had relocated to the United States when he was just a child. His father was a professor at the UW Medical School, and Colás attended Edgewood High School and UW-Madison. His appointment was well recognized as being the first of a Hispanic judge in the county.
The October 10 envelope and the letter were sent to the State Crime Lab, which was able to analyze it and develop a DNA profile from a stamp in order to move forward with a felony charge. The DNA profile also was associated with threats to two other judges and a state senator. There was no match to any offender in Wisconsin’s DNA database.
There are currently more than two dozen open cases pending against the DNA profiles of unidentified people across fourteen Wisconsin counties, according to state court records. Most of the cases involve felony crimes including unsolved burglaries, sexual assaults, and armed robbery.