Milwaukee Sues Second Reckless Driver
LaShawn Thomas has received 37 traffic citations in five years
It’s part of a new legal strategy to combat a legal loophole where repeatedly cited drivers like Thomas can continue to drive. For a number of driving violations, including running red lights and repeat offenses, the maximum penalty is a fine. Thomas has pushed that to the limit, repeatedly being pulled over for driving more than twice the speed limit and often while illegally passing vehicles or driving into oncoming traffic.
Thomas, 26, has been issued 13 citations in 2022. That includes three speeding tickets, each for more than 23 mph over the limit. He’s also been cited twice for child seat belt violations. He doesn’t have a valid license, nor insurance.
A resident of N. 39th St. according to the lawsuit, Thomas’ citations are all listed as occurring on the city’s North Side. Multiple times, Thomas was pulled over for doing the “Milwaukee slide,” where he illegally passed other vehicles by driving in the parking or bike lane.
Later in July, Thomas was pulled over while doing 28 mph over the speed limit. He had two children, ages seven and three, in the vehicle that weren’t “properly secured.”
Thomas joins Anthony Szablewski, who accrued 44 violations between 2017 and July 2022, as the second person sued under the policy. The city secured a default judgment against Szablewski in October as, consistent with his response to past citations, he didn’t show up in court. Szablewski, 54, has been cited at least once since the lawsuit was filed. He also now faces an eviction case. The legal strategy being used calls for the defendant to be first declared a public nuisance and then hit with court action to impound the vehicle or authorize jail time.
“MPD continues to work on a multifaceted approach to combat reckless driving and needs assistance from everyone, including our community. The civil litigation approach against egregious reckless drivers is intended to send a clear message to all the chronic reckless drivers in Milwaukee that we take the safety of everyone on the roadways in our community very seriously,” said Chief Jeffrey Norman in a statement.
According to court records, Thomas, like Szablewski, regularly does not appear for his court dates and does not pay the judgments.
City officials publicly squabbled over the civil-suit strategy earlier this year. Dating back to late 2021, Common Council members accused City Attorney Tearman Spencer of slow walking the proposal. The council was poised to vote on an ordinance to formalize the nuisance designation in March, but an opinion resulted in the ordinance being indefinitely held. When the council discussed the measure in January, Norman and his chief of staff Nick DeSiato, both trained attorneys, were credited with coming up with the idea. Then acting mayor Cavalier Johnson, who declared reckless driving a public safety crisis as his first act, was said to be pushing for the measure.