Jeramey Jannene

Zapata Pleads Not Guilty To Felony Charge Related To Voter Fraud

Milwaukee's former number two election official represented by conservative law firm, poised to fight case.

By - Dec 9th, 2022 02:58 pm
Kimberly Zapata appears before Court Commissioner Barry Phillips. Image from Circuit Court Livestream.

Kimberly Zapata appears before Court Commissioner Barry Phillips. Image from Circuit Court Livestream.

The felony voter fraud case against the City of Milwaukee’s former number two election official, Kimberly Zapata, is moving forward.

Zapata made her second court appearance Friday, pleading not guilty to a felony charge of misconduct in office and waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. It followed a hearing last week where Zapata pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges of requesting three military absentee ballots.

She’s represented by the Thomas More Society, a conservative law firm where former Wisconsin supreme court justice and election denier Michael Gableman now works. Zapata is directly represented by Abigail Bongiorno, who was admitted to the bar earlier this year.

Zapata, 45, is alleged to have used a state elections website to have ballots sent to the home of Janel Brandtjen (R-Menomonee Falls), the chair of the Wisconsin State Assembly‘s Elections Committee and an advocate of decertifying the 2020 election.

She is currently free on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond issued by Milwaukee County Court Commissioner Maria Dorsey last week. On Friday she appeared virtually before Court Commissioner Barry Phillips.

The brief hearing Friday resulted in Zapata affirming she was waiving her right to a preliminary hearing, pleading not guilty and seeing her no-contact order amended.

Last week, she was ordered not to have contact with Brandtjen or Milwaukee Election Commission Director Claire Woodall-Vogg and barred from administering an election. Bongiorno protested the no-contact order with Woodall-Vogg, stating that Woodall-Vogg and Zapata were friends and would talk about non-work things.

On Friday, Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Westphal moved to allow Zapata to again speak with Woodall-Vogg, but only about her employment status and disciplinary proceedings.

Woodall-Vogg and Mayor Cavalier Johnson, in disclosing Zapata’s alleged actions on Nov. 3, said she was “terminated” and her access to city facilities and computer systems revoked. But Zapata, owing to earlier positions in her decade-long career with the city, has civil service protections from a lower-level job. She is now formally on administrative leave from that lower position at an annual salary of $68,913. Zapata was promoted to deputy in July.

A scheduling conference was set for Feb. 3. The rest of the case is scheduled to be heard by Judge Laura Crivello.

In addition to Zapata, the Thomas More Society worked with Brandtjen and others in attempting to have military ballots sequestered during the Nov. 8 election, but a Waukesha County judge denied the request on Nov. 7.

The firm is also defending Racine County resident Harry Wait against felony charges for requesting absentee ballots for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and Racine Mayor Cory Mason earlier this year. Vos terminated Gableman’s election review contract earlier this year and barred Brandtjen from attending private caucus meetings.

A criminal complaint filed by Milwaukee County details Zapata’s alleged actions, and a possible motive.

In an interview with the DA’s office, Zapata is alleged to have committed the action from her southwest side home the morning of Oct. 25 to draw attention to the “actual true fraud” and move Brandtjen, who has empowered Gableman and pushed to decertify the 2020 election, away from “conspiracy theories.”

“Zapata stated that she felt overwhelmed due to the threats of violence the Election Commission was receiving, in addition to the constant daily harassment and accusations of lying and hiding things,” says the complaint. “She stated she wanted the truth to come out so that they could focus on the actual problems.” Zapata was on bereavement leave preceding her actions, but returned to work on Oct. 24.

Zapata, according to the complaint, used the public-facing My Vote WI to request the ballots. She created fictitious people that lived in South Milwaukee, Shorewood and Menomonee Falls and had all of the ballots sent to Brandtjen’s Menomonee Falls home. She did, however, use a privileged election worker system to access Brandtjen’s address, which would have been available in other public documents.

Military members do not need to register in advance or provide an ID in order to request an absentee ballot.

Brandtjen received the ballots on Oct. 28. The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office announced it was investigating the matter on Oct. 31. Woodall-Vogg, according to the complaint, discussed the issue with Zapata, who denied any knowledge, that day. Zapata then approached Woodall-Vogg on Wednesday, Nov. 2 and volunteered she requested the ballots.

A copy of the complaint is available on Urban Milwaukee.

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Categories: Politics, Weekly

3 thoughts on “Zapata Pleads Not Guilty To Felony Charge Related To Voter Fraud”

  1. DAGDAG says:

    She admitted to doing it…yet she pleads NOT GUILTY? Welcome to the CRIMINAL JUSTICE system in the US

  2. nickzales says:

    So she broke the law to prove it could be broken. Good luck with that defense. *LOL*

  3. ringo muldano says:

    Hey, girl. Your bangs should concern anyone that pays money to a hairdresser. Knock that shit off! You’re scaring the little kids!

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